The proposed Western Iowa Tech Community College’s wind turbine designed to serve as an outdoor classroom for WITCC’s Wind Energy Program now located in Cherokee is in the process of being installed, despite the objections of a few neighboring residential property owners.
The WITCC Campus in Cherokee located on Victory Drive is adjacent to the Lundsgaard Addition, and a few residents there voiced their concerns over the installation of the 95 KW, 102-foot high turbine (to blade tips) to be located immediately north of the WITCC building.
The opposition, organized by nearby resident and spokesperson Ramona Nitz, cited potential noise pollution, health concerns, and other rumored hazards allegedly associated with a working wind turbine and its spinning blades.
In late May, WITCC and the City of Cherokee hosted an informational meeting regarding WITCCs Wind Energy program that will begin classes effective this August. A key component of the program is the location and operation of a wind turbine.
Dr. Terry Murrell, President of WITCC; Rob Hach, President of Anemometry Specialists installing the turbine; and Don Eikmeier, Cherokee City Administrator, presented details on the wind turbine, operational plans and related information at the meeting attended by about 50 interested people.
Dr. Darla Struck, Director of the Cherokee WITCC Campus, had a scheduling conflict and could not attend the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Dr. Struck had this to say, “Some of our students are retraining for second careers while others are choosing renewable energy as a first career, which is very exciting. Now with the addition of this outdoor lab space, we are able to offer the second year of the program so the complete program will be housed right here on the Cherokee campus. These students will be able to complete their program of study right here in our own community.”
Murrell reiterated the value and importance of the college’s Wind Energy Program, the necessity for a working turbine to serve as an outdoor lab that would expose students to its workings, and the climbing and mechanical skills necessary to participate in the program.
“The benefits of a wind turbine for its instructional purposes and to generate power for the campus cannot be denied,” said Murrell, who lauded the large turnout for their interest in WITCC, education, the community, and WITCC’s role in the Cherokee community.
Hach spoke of the importance of wind energy to Cherokee, which is located in Iowa’s true wind corridor, and of the high quality of technicians his company now employs who have attended similar community college wind energy programs.
“We employ 33 technicians now, and this WITCC program and a turbine classroom will help retain jobs in Cherokee and Northwest Iowa. It’s important to have a wind energy program in Cherokee,” said Hach.
Eikmeier advised that other communities such as Spirit Lake and Akron have had wind turbines powering their schools for several years, and that he spoke with those city officials, who reported no problems with their turbines and no negative impact on property values, but rather the economic benefits they provide.
Nitz cited alleged health risks and possible noise pollution while mentioning that Internet articles address both sides of the issue and do raise some questions to the overall safety of the turbines. She also questioned whether turbines do or do not impact property values.
Nitz maintained that she was all for education and suppported WITCC and its Cherokee campus, and was simply against the location of the turbine. She and a couple other residents said they would be more supportive if the turbine was located in the country, away from residential areas.
Murrell replied that the turbine’s value is as an outdoor classroom that’s accessible and functioning, and that transporting students back and forth to another location away from the campus would not be conducive to the program.
Murrell also emphasized that the turbine would also serve as a “billboard” for the college, the community and the wind energy program.
Mark Hecox, who lives just four houses away from the WITCC turbine site, said he fully supported the wind energy program and turbine, and that he had contacted several neighbors and most all of them did too. He then pointed out about a dozen of those neighbors who nodded their heads in agreement.
The WITCC turbine meets all the requirements of the City zoning ordinance. The issue of the City zoning ordinance not directly addressing such things as the installation of towers, etc. will be researched and addressed in the near future, according to Eikmeier.
Murrell also said if the turbine were to cause any unforseen problems once it’s functioning, that it would be dealt with. “We’ve been good neighbors for many years, and we’ll continue being good neighbors,” said Murrell.
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