WATSEKA – The Iroquois County Board approved a resolution last week opposing a proposed state law that board members say would eliminate counties’ authority to regulate commercial wind turbines.
The resolution opposes House Bill 3523, sponsored by state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign. The bill would create the Wind Energy Facilities Construction and Deconstruction Act, which would require that operators of commercial wind turbines located on private property enter into an agricultural impact mitigation agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
The agreement would “outline construction and deconstruction standards and policies designed to preserve the integrity of any agricultural land that is impacted by commercial wind energy facility construction and deconstruction.” The agreement would need to be entered into prior to any public hearing being held for the siting of a wind farm.
The requirement would not apply to commercial wind energy facilities already constructed or permitted by a county prior to the law’s adoption, but it would apply to any wind farm seeking an extension or renewal of its permit.
The bill also would make “conforming changes to the Counties Code and Municipal Code.”
The resolution approved by the county board last Tuesday says the bill would amend the Counties Code by “deleting language allowing a county to establish standards for wind farms and electric generating wind devices.”
The resolution says the board opposes the bill because “it eliminates current county authority … to continue to regulate existing commercial wind energy facilities” and because “the Iroquois County zoning ordinance provides better protections for the citizens of Iroquois County with regard to the regulation of commercial wind energy facilities than the regulations proposed in HB3523.”
The resolution will be sent to state legislators and all members of the Illinois Senate Energy Committee.
Attempts to reach Brown for comment were unsuccessful.
Also at last week’s county board meeting:
— The board approved a proposal to strengthen the setback requirements for wind turbines built in Iroquois County. Under the proposal, any new turbines built in the county would need to be at least 12 “rotar diameters” from the property lines of “non-participating property owners” – defined as those landowners whose property is not being leased to the wind farm operator. The county’s wind ordinance previously called for turbines to be at least 12 rotar diameters from structures – but only 1,500 feet from property lines – of non-participating landowners. Meanwhile, the proposal would not change the 1,000-foot distance that turbines are required to be from structures located on land being leased to the wind farm’s operator. According to the proposal, landowners would be able to waive the setback requirement, but only if the tower is located no closer than 1,000 feet of a primary structure or property line.
— Veteran county board member Susan Wynn Bence of Watseka announced her resignation as county board member representing District IV, effective April 30. Wynn Bence said her resignation will allow her to become director of legislative and rural affairs for Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti. She will work in the capitol building during the week, so she would be unable to continue on the county board. Wynn Bence also is resigning as chief of staff for state Rep. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City.
— County Board Chairman Kyle Anderson discussed an incident that happened recently in Watseka, in which several units of law enforcement were involved with a hostage situation. He credited everyone involved for doing their job proficiently and thanked them for bringing back one of the citizens unharmed.
— Illinois Economic Development Association Director Ken Barragree said a new Casey’s General Store will be built next to the former Big R building in Watseka. He ensured the board he would work hard to find a business to take over the current Casey’s location in Watseka once the new store is built.
— Barragree said an addition to the Lyon plant is almost completed, and there will be a job fair for new hires. He also read a press release announcing that Echelon Capital acquired the assets of Republic Storage Systems, a manufacturer of lockers, shelving, and other products. Echelon Capital owns several companies and is known locally as Lyon. He explained that the acquisition means even more jobs could be coming to the county.
— Probation Department Director Tom Latham said a vehicle was purchased for the probation department.
— Treasurer Mindy Kuntz Hagan said property tax bills should be mailed to property owners on May 1.
— Hope Wheeler with CliftonLarsonAllen was in attendance to discuss the results of the fiscal year 2014 audit. Wheeler said that overall the audit process went well.
— ESDA Director Eric Ceci discussed the Hazardous Material Emergency Preparedness grant he recently applied for. The grant was previously an 80/20 match; however, it can now be 100 percent reimbursable. The total amount of the grant applied for is $7,157.
— The board agreed to seek bids for the replacement of a boiler. Bids will be due at 4 p.m. May 1 and opened at 9 a.m. May 4 during the management committee meeting.
—The board voted to have a contractor determine if the re-piping project will be successful. If the contractor says it will be successful, Meents has approval to move forward with the glycol replacement and re-piping project. If the contractor says it will be unsuccessful, Meents will move forward with the glycol replacement project only, with the $20,000 allotted budget amount.
— The board approved a three-year contract with AT&T.
— The board approved seeking bids for the replacement of the Administrative Center’s roof and drains and the repair of the roof at the county jail.
— The board approved a resolution and deed allowing the sale of a parcel of land in Milford that was obtained by Iroquois County through the delinquent tax process.
— The board learned that the Iroquois County Public Health Department is applying for a “body art” grant. The grant would allow the agency to inspect tattoo parlors.
— The board approved a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
— Sheriff Derek Hagen’s monthly report indicated there were 532 calls for service in March, bringing year-to-date calls for service at 1,407 – a 6.5 percent increase from this time a year ago. Hagen said 80 prisoners were booked at the jail in March, for a total of 197 for the year.
— 911 Director Nita Dubble said in her report that 21 percent of the 1,244 911 calls received last month were from landlines and 79 percent were from wireless phones. There were 3,831 non-emergency calls received.
— Supervisor of Assessments Bob Yergler said Mike Moran of Ash Grove Township has resigned from the zoning board of appeals, and Huck Marshall of Watseka has also resigned as a zoning board member as well as the Iroquois County plumbing inspector.
— The board approved preliminary engineering agreements with HLR for $25,000 in work to be done in Prairie Green Township. The board also approved a preliminary engineering agreement with HLR for an estimated $49,000 in work to be done in Onarga Township. The board also approved a preliminary engineering agreement with Hutchison Engineering Inc. for repairs to County Highway 42, at a cost not to exceed $50,000.
— The board approved a petition for county aid for a box culvert in Ash Grove Township. The county’s portion of the work will cost $15,000.
— The board approved “emergency repairs” to Loda Road for an estimated cost of $330,000, with Ameren Illinois paying $287,000 of that cost. The board also approved repairs to County Highway 24, between the Danforth Slab and Route 116, for an estimated cost of $170,000. To cover the costs, the board agreed to transfer $500,000 from the County Highway Fund to the Road Supplies Construction line item.
— The board approved the appointment of John Rosenberger of rural Milford as drainage commissioner of the Union Drainage District of Stockland and Prairie Green Townships, through September 2015. He replaces Terry Fanning, who resigned Dec. 1.
— The board approved the appointment of Tod A. Fletcher of Iroquois as a trustee of the Concord Fire Protection District, through May 2018.
— The board approved the appointment of Todd S. Schippert of rural Milford as a trustee of the Milford Fire Protection District, through May 2018.
— The board approved the appointment of Frank Snow of Beaverville as a trustee of the Beaverville Fire Protection Fire District, through May 2018.
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