HURON COUNTY – Noise experts soon will help the county revise the portion of the zoning ordinance that addresses turbine noise with the goal of using science to ensure residents are protected while wind energy companies are still able to do business in the county.
Huron County commissioners voted Tuesday to offer a contract to Acoustics By Design, an independent acoustical consulting firms headquartered in Grand Rapids.
ABD was recommended by the wind energy subcommittee after the subcommittee interviewed the two firms that submitted proposals to the county Monday night, and then met again Tuesday night to debate the choices.
Because all parties want to hire a firm as quickly as possible, the Huron County Planning Commission voted Aug. 6 to support whichever of the two firms the wind energy subcommittee chose.
The second company considered was Phase To, Inc., headquartered in Lansing. Both companies submitted comparable proposals, with Phase To quoting a flat rate of $12,000, including travel and related expensive, and ABD quoting $10,500, plus travel and expens- es.
Commissioner John Nugent said both companies had the resources and knowledge to help the county correct its ordinance, something that he said is sorely needed.
“Both of them noted that the wind acoustics section of our ordinance is seriously flawed, in fact some of the numbers may even be reversed in the ordinance, as opposed to how they are supposed to be. I think it’s really beneficial to the county that this is being looked at by (the wind energy sub)committee,” Nugent said. “It is a thankless job, and it’s going on and on and on, but what they’re doing is very important.
Commissioner Steve Vaughan said hiring a consulting firm is a necessary step to ensure the ordinance is fair to all parties, as no one on the wind energy subcommittee knows enough about acoustics to revise the ordinance in a way that will be enforceable and will stand up in court, should it be challenged.
“None of us have the expertise we need to provide that information. We need someone with a lot more knowledge than we have,” Vaughan said.
Nugent said it is vital the county hire an independent company that will provide a fair assessment and make unbiased recommendations.
“There are just so many half truths associated with this wind industry, on both sides, that it’s hard to wade through it. They distort the science that’s associated with it,” he said. “The wind people will tell you they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, the turbines. And you have the other people who say it’s ruining my sleep and it’s killing my cows and my chickens won’t lay eggs, and all the game has left the area.”
Huron County Commissioner Dave Peruski said six members of the subcommittee favored ABD, two preferred Phase To, one chose not to vote and one member was absent.
Peruski said he chose ABD because it was the more responsive of the two and because he believes ABD has more experience working with acoustics in buildings.
“When we first sent out the letter, June 30, ABD responded immediately and followed through with every request. Phase To decided, well, we’ll just throw it in at the last second,” Peruski said. “If I have to beg you to respond, will I have to continue to beg you to respond?”
Peruski also said he felt ABD conducted themselves better during the interviews than Phase To.
“Listening to them, I thought ABD was more comprehensive in their answers. They were asked the same questions in the same context, but when they answered their questions, they didn’t go in a circle. They answered the questions specifically based on the way they interpreted it, whereas Phase To, they kind of went around. They answered the questions, but they answered it in kind of a circle. It wasn’t as directed as ABD.”
“We want someone that is up to date, that has current knowledge of current information, and I believe ABD is probably more apt to give us that information,” Vaughan said.
Now that the county has selected ABD, the commissioners will request a formal contract to ensure it matches what the company submitted in its proposal.
According to the proposal submitted by ABD, the firm will provide the following services:
• Review the Huron County Wind Energy Conversion Facility Overlay Zoning Ordinance, along with any other existing Huron County noise ordinance.
• Assist with the development of an updated noise ordinance as it applies to commercial wind turbine noise.
• Be available to attend meetings and conduct site visits.
• Prepare and submit a template for a noise ordinance, including the appropriate levels for audible noise or sound pressure from wind parks; the appropriate methodology, equipment, etc. for measuring levels of noise, sound pressure or other phenomena that may have an impact on the health and safety of humans residing in close proximity to a wind energy facility; the appropriate equipment necessary for testing and enforcing the ordinance; and the minimum qualifications and/or training necessary for a person to conduct the requisite testing that would qualify for evidentiary purposes in judicial proceedings.
• Prepare and submit a report with findings and recommendations for improving the existing noise ordinance or creating a new ordinance.
• Meet via teleconference to review the template and report.
• Be available via phone or email to discuss or answer questions about the template and report.
ABD estimates the work will take 60 hours. The county will be billed for additional hours, but ABD will seek commissioners’ approval before exceeding the estimate.
In its proposal, ABD noted that it performs consulting services only, and it does not manufacture, sell or install any products.
“This enables us to offer objective recommendations for your project,” the firm noted.
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