September 12, 2014

Townships sue wind farm over roadway issues

By JESSICA BOURQUE | Morris Daily Herald | Sept. 11, 2014 |

KINSMAN – Highland Township Road Commissioner Mark Harlow can remember the days when driving down certain country roads would end with a black, tar-covered vehicle.

That was about three years ago, and the tar and chip roads near Highland and Vienna townships have not improved much since then, despite attempted repairs, Harlow said.

The pavement problems began after Blackstone Wind Farm put new chip seal on the roads. The company agreed to help maintain a roughly 34-mile network of roads on Oct. 13, 2009, when it signed road use and maintenance agreements with Vienna and Highland Townships.

Now, Highland and Vienna townships are embroiled in a lawsuit with the wind farm, alleging the company breached its contracts by not indemnifying the townships for costs associated with the road repairs, according to official court records.

Blackstone’s heavy trucks and equipment frequent the roads, Harlow said, and the company agreed to compensate and hold harmless the townships for any problems stemming from road developments, court records show.

“They have a crew that goes around to work on the [wind] towers all of the time. They’re on these roads constantly,” Harlow said.

Combined, the townships are seeking about $56,600, plus legal fees.

“There was a failure associated with a substantial percent of roadways,” the townships’ attorney Scott Belt said Wednesday.

“You had people who couldn’t get to their homes without their cars being completely covered in tar,” Belt continued.

Initially, Blackstone recognized the need for new roads. The company attempted to fix the problem spots and provided vouchers to residents needing their cars cleaned, Belt said.

Those attempts to remedy the situation were made more than a year ago, but the tar issues persist, Harlow said.

“It’s gotten a little better now, with the colder temperatures, but it’s not fixed,” he said.

The lawsuit was filed in February and is ongoing, Belt said.

Multiple calls made Thursday to Alison Dodson, Blackstone’s legal counsel for the case, and Bob Lenz, Blackstone attorney, were not immediately returned.

At the end of the day, Harlow said he’s most concerned with getting the roads back to normal so residents and local farmers can keep using them.

“These roads have been the biggest headache for us,” he said. “It’s just a pain for us, as the public, and I get tired of all of the complaints. I just want them done properly.”

URL to article: