COLUMBUS – The Platte County Board of Supervisors has yet to give its support to a wind farm project that is already underway south of Creston.
On Tuesday, the board tabled a resolution of support and county road agreement with Bluestem Energy Solutions.
The Omaha-based wind energy company will be installing four turbines near 205th Avenue (Mason Road) for a commercial wind farm known as Creston Ridge Wind LLC.
Adam Herink, vice president of Bluestem, said the company is in the midst of finishing up the development process for the project and securing contracts and permits for construction. Because county roads will be used by heavy equipment during construction, the county board asked Bluestem to provide an agreement to maintain the integrity of the roads.
A draft of the agreement was reviewed by Platte County Assistant Attorney Elizabeth Lay. Overall, she said, the agreement was reasonable because Bluestem would be responsible for damage to county roads sustained during the construction process. But, she did have a couple of recommendations that led the board to table approval of the agreement for now.
Bluestem is planning on completing an inventory on the condition of the roads prior to and after construction. Lay wants the county to receive a copy of that inventory.
She also suggested the agreement be extended through the wind farm’s operational life, not just until the facility is up and running. She said there could be a time when repairs need to be made to the turbines and equipment would once again travel over county roads.
“We need to know if they are going to bring a 200-ton piece of equipment over our roads in the future that our roads are protected then as well as now,” she said.
Herink said Bluestem wants to work with the county to make sure the infrastructure stays in place. He hopes to have a new agreement prepared for the next county board meeting May 5.
Bluestem recently finalized a contract with Loup Public Power District to provide wind-generated electricity to the district.
Loup will purchase a small percentage of its overall power from Bluestem. Loup is a 100 percent purchaser from Nebraska Public Power District, but the utility is allowed to purchase 3 percent of its peak demand from an outside source. That is where Bluestem comes into play.
Discussions between Loup and Bluestem were ongoing for more than a year before the contract was approved. Supervisor Tom Martens questioned why the county wasn’t included earlier in the process.
“This project is under construction already and we got this information at the last minute. I don’t know why we weren’t contacted a year ago or more. We should have been,” Martens said.
Herink said the contract was finalized with Loup in early March and he did come before the county board at its last meeting April 7.
“The project begins when we have contracts in place with Loup. We went to the first county supervisors meeting after the contracts were finalized,” he said.
Martens also questioned why there were no public information meetings for people who live in the area where the facility will be built.
Neal Suess, CEO and president of Loup, said Loup’s board had numerous discussions with Bluestem during open meetings for more than a year.
“From Loup’s standpoint, every one of our meetings is a public meeting and we had it on our agenda at every meeting since January of last year,” Suess said.
Herink added that they had about half a dozen meetings with the Loup board that were open to the public and he personally spoke to several landowners in the area about the project, which will undergo most of its construction in late summer and be operational in the fall.
“I apologize if it didn’t appear that we were talking to people or that we weren’t out in the public. In my opinion we were,” he said.
The board decided to table action on the county road agreement and a resolution of support for the project.
In other action, the board approved allowing the register of deeds’ office to spend money from the Preservation and Modernization Fund.
Diane Kapels, county register of deeds, requested that about $28,000 from the fund be used to scan the numerical index.
The fund was created in 2013 when the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill that increased fees for recording documents with the register of deeds. Some of the additional funds generated by the increase are designated to fund the preservation and modernization of records. Kapels said the fund currently has $48,425.
The board also approved moving forward with the courthouse roofing project. Bids for the project will be opened May 19.
There isn’t a time frame for when the project will get underway, but a completion date of July 30, 2016, will be included in the request for bids, said Dan Keiter with engineering firm RVW Inc.
Keiter also said there are no active leaks in the roof and no evidence of hazardous materials in samples that were taken. Testing by AMI Environmental came back negative for asbestos.
When the project does start, Keiter said an effort will be made to schedule work around when court is not in session to minimize the noise that could occur.
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