PRINCETON – Big Sky Wind, a wind farm near Ohio, Ill., currently owned by Ever Power, approached the Bureau County Board Monday, April 13, requesting a replacement letter of credit.
“The fact that I’m here again, it speaks more to the strength of the company, the strength of the project than it does to anything else. Because the fundamentals are strong, we’ve been able to attract different investors to the project, and that’s why this opportunity came about,” said Ever Power/Big Sky spokesperson Mike Speerschneider.
He said due to better interest rates and financing, Big Sky would like to replace the current $2 million letter of credit with Key Bank to a $2.4 million letter of credit with BMO Harris.
Out of good faith in the project, Big Sky was able to add the additional 20 percent to the letter of credit with the proposed bank, said Speerschneider. He said the letter of credit is a contract between the bank and the county. If the occasion arose where the county needed to access the money, Ever Power or Big Sky would have nothing to do with the transaction.
“I would like to assure you that the existing letter of credit is in full force and effect. It will remain in full force and effect until or unless this replacement is approved by the board and is issued,” he added. “Not one day passed that the county was exposed to risk, and that is still the case now and that will be the case as long as we are involved.”
However, Walnut resident Ed Gerdes voiced his many concerns.
“Well, they won’t be here when it’s decommissioned, so who’s going to fix the roads when they’re gone?” he asked
Gerdes noted the extensive damage to the roads when the wind turbines were put in. While the company was able to pay for the roads to be fixed at that point in time, the situation would be different at the time of decommissioning.
“Is this two million dollars they’re leaving here in this letter of credit, is that going to go to fixing the roads after they take these things? Because the same equipment’s got to come in to take them down that came in to put them up,” Gerdes said.
When the wind farm is done and they owe their investors all their money, said Gerdes, they’re not going to be spending money to repair roads or take down the turbines.
“They’re going to say, ‘Here’s your $2 million, you take them down,’” he said. “The loser is the county and the taxpayer if the money’s not there.”
When the time came for the decision, the county board examined the replacement letter of credit agreement. County board member Steve Sondgeroth questioned why in regards to any future disputes concerning the letter of credit, Bureau County had been replaced with Cook County in the agreement contract.
Speerschneider explained that change and one other text change had been made at the request of BMO Harris Bank. As they are centered in Chicago and in Cook County, the bank had preferred any disputes be handled there in the larger court system.
Speerschneider was not aware if this was a deal breaker, but simply thought it was a technicality within the agreement. The other text change he referred to involved eliminating “fax” as an option for document communication or exchanges.
While the board did not object to the elimination of faxing papers, they did not agree with the county court system change.
After a lengthy discussion, the board agreed to accept the replacement letter of credit with BMO Harris, but to keep the county text the same, leaving any disputes to be handled in Bureau County.
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