FAYETTEVILLE – Washington County is prepared for any plans to build wind farms in the county’s rural areas, the county planner told the Quorum Court on Monday.
Planner Juliet Richey spoke on the topic during the new term’s first Public Works and County Services committee meetings, which touched on the county’s animal shelter, planning and other departments.
Tom Lundstrum, justice of the peace from Elm Springs, pointed to a report in Sunday’s Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette showing a Texas company had begun discussions on building dozens of wind turbines a mile west of his hometown. Representatives from Dragonfly Industries International spoke with Elm Springs officials last month about the project.
The 80-megawatt farm would be the state’s first wind power generation.
County planners would review and approve the project’s construction because its site is unincorporated land, though Elm Springs would take over the process if it annexes the land as the county hopes. Richey said county planners began researching the specific needs of wind farms, such as buffer distances in case a turbine falls and connections to local power grids, in 2008, when a Kansas company considered bringing a wind farm to the region.
“I’ve talked to those developers several, several times,” Richey said of Dragonfly. “We (the Planning Department) have been through all of this.”
The company has given her few details, Richey added, but the project is still in its earliest stages.
The Quorum Court committees then moved to other topics, including the county animal shelter, which sits on West Clydesdale Avenue in the south end of Fayetteville.
Angela Ledgerwood, shelter director, said the 3-year-old shelter took in a record 2,300 cats and dogs last year, about 300 more than the year before. Lundstrum, a Republican who has regularly criticized the shelter’s cost, said he wasn’t convinced that number was worth the shelter’s $616,000 budget.
Lundstrum argued the real cost of the county’s animal control is higher than the budget shows because of additional labor and time from the Sheriff’s Office animal control staff. He pegged the entire cost Monday at around $800,000, or about $350 per animal taken in.
“That’s an awful lot of money per animal if you stop and look at it,” Lundstrum said.
Ledgerwood said a strict dollar-per-dog comparison gave an incomplete picture. Shelter employees catch, sterilize and care for stray or unwanted cats and dogs throughout the county before they’re even considered for adoption, she said.
“We have to be able to provide that,” Ledgerwood said, calling such animal control a “public service.” “The animals have to have somewhere to go.”
Eva Madison, a Fayetteville Democrat, and other justices of the peace also defended the cost.
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