MANSFIELD – Richland County Commissioners say developers of the proposed Black Fork Wind Farm still need a road agreement before they can begin construction of their wind turbine project west of Shelby.
At their meeting Thursday, commissioners said Element Power has not responded to requests to begin discussions about how county and township roads will be repaired if they are damaged by heavy equipment during construction or maintenance.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to affirm a decision by the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve the project. Opponents, including some residents in Shelby, Crestline and Tiro close to the wind farm site, said they were denied the opportunity to cross-examine siting board staff members at the evidentiary hearing on Element Power’s application.
“We’ve been working on a road agreement for two years, but these energy companies have never sat down with us,” said Commissioner Gary Utt. “I’ve been told by the Paulding County clerk that they (wind farm companies) fixed the roads the first time, but the second time, when they replace equipment, they won’t be as forthright.”
Commissioners in 2011 passed regulations governing overweight and over-wide vehicles that require any company or individual planning to use a county road to run a truck or load that is more than 40 tons or wider than 10 feet to apply for a permit.
County officials review the permit and require either a bond, an escrow payment or a maintenance agreement.
Commissioners president Tim Wert said the board wants the road maintenance money “in its coffers” so roads can be prepared and repaired as the county wants, and for the companies to pay prevailing wages. Commissioner Ed Olson added, “If any construction starts without an agreement, no doubt about it, the county will go to court to stop it. The county owns the roads.”
In other business:
• Commissioners approved a $2,288 merit payment to Youth and Family Council Director Teresa Alt for work done beyond her scope of duties.
• The board approved a memo of understanding with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1295 to accept changes to job descriptions that better reflect the work Job and Family Services employees are doing. The changes were recommended statewide by the State Employment Relations Board.
• Commissioners received an end-of-the-year update from Richland County Children Services director Patricia Harrelson, who said the agency has served more than 900 children this year, with 332 active cases and caseworkers handling an average of 14 cases each. She said a care team will go out in the community in 2014 to promote the agency.
Utt said it appears the promotional work Children Services has done since Harrelson took over has changed community attitudes about the agency.
“I’ve had the least amount of complaints about Children Services since I’ve been a commissioner,” Wert said.
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