HURON COUNTY – Two weeks after denying a Detroit Edison representative a spot on the county’s Wind Energy Zoning Subcommittee, the Huron County Board of Commissioners appointed a wind energy proponent and renewable energy consultant to provide what some say is much-needed expertise.
Pigeon resident Brion Dickens was granted a seat on the subcommittee by unanimous consent of the commissioners. Dickens, who submitted a resume when he requested the appointment, is the owner of Woodland Wind LLC, Renewable Energy Education Consultation. He also serves on the board of managers for the Great Lakers Wind LLC, a wind development company, and is a member of the Oliver Township Planning Commission.
Commissioner Steve Vaughan said the legislative committee met last week after the failed attempt to appoint Mike Serafin and decided to request Dickens’ appointment because the subcommittee requires the knowledge of a wind energy expert.
Serafin, DTE Energy Wind Development Program manager, had asked for a seat on the subcommittee after Huron County resident Bob McLean was appointed during the Board of Commissioners meeting on April 8. McLean, who has expertise in acoustics, has been active in seeking stricter noise regulations for turbines.
Vaughan said Dickens was very involved in bringing solar, wind and biomass educa- tional projects to Laker High School, and he has the knowledge the subcommittee needs when it plans possible changes to the zoning ordinance.
“If we have a question and we need the question answered, we have to go to a resource to get the question answered,” Vaughan argued. “If we need to get information, we can’t go to the library around the corner and get the information we need. We need to physically ask someone, ‘is this doable? What are the pros and cons, and does it work?’ We need to educate ourselves, otherwise, you’ve got to hire a consultant.”
Commissioner Dave Peruski agreed, saying Dickens would bring balance to the subcommittee.
Dickens’s resume states his company designs, builds and maintains wind, solar and biomass systems, and he has extensive training in the fields from both the companies he represents and seminars he has attended.
The resume states Dickens’s life objective is “to further the advancement of the renewable energy technologies of wind, solar, biofuels and biomass in the world. This will be accomplished through the construction, sale and installation of these technologies, the education of the populous and students enrolled in K-16 programs and the development of renewable energy education programs to meet this goal.”
Commissioner John Nugent questioned Dickens’ involvement with wind energy providers, and he agreed with the appointment only after Vaughan convinced him Dickens does not have a conflict of interest.
“He’s a consultant. I can understand that,” Nugent said.
However, Nugent questioned the scope of the subcommittee, and he suggested the county seek outside legal help to work on the wind energy zoning ordinance.
“I think this committee might be taking on more than they need to. There are attorneys out there that that can help you develop an ordinance that will work for all your needs,” he said. “This is the second chance to make this thing right. If it doesn’t come out right this time, it is going to be a mess for Huron County.”
Board Chairman Clark Elftman said the planning commission is not ready to seek outside legal advice, but it might seek it in the future. The subcommittee was formed to provide the planning commission with information and guidance so the planning commission can amend the county zoning ordinance so that it will best meet the needs of the county and its residents.
Also during Tuesday meeting:
• Commissioners unanimously voted to oppose a proposal to develop an underground nuclear waste facility near Kincardine, Ontario, as the facility would be located less than a mile for the Lake Huron Shoreline. See next week’s View for more about this topic.
• Commissioners authorized Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co. to prepare an actuarial valuation of retiree health benefits for Huron County and the Huron County Health Department at a total cost of $25,750.
• Commissioners requested that the area’s legislative leaders commit to a goal and timeframe in which to provide an adequate supply of natural gas to Huron County. Commissioner Ron Wruble said manufacturing facilities in the Harbor Beach area often have trouble obtaining the natural gas they need to maintain operations.
• Katheen Particka was employed as a part-time bookkeeper in the Huron County Treasurer’s Office at a rate of $13.45 per hour.
• Commissioners voted to support the application for Federal and Local Bridge Program funds for the replacement of the Rapson Road Bridge and the McAlpine Road Bridge.
• Commissioners voted to notify the road commission, townships, municipalities, Michigan Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources that a public hearing will be scheduled for the adoption of the Huron County off-road vehicle ordinance.
• Huron County Equalization Director Walter Schlichting presented the 2014 equalization report, which contained good news regarding property values and the county’s tax base. See next week’s View for more.
• A National Day of Prayer service was authorized to take place from noon until 1 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial.
• Commissioners voted to authorize Elftman to sign the 2014 Law Enforcement Services Agreement between Huron County and Caseville Township.