Pontiac, Ill. – After months of committee wrangling over how to phrase a referendum question about wind energy conversion systems and the support it had on a township-by-township basis, the full Livingston County Board approved what its members believed to be the most palatable option come the question’s placement on the November ballot at its night meeting Thursday.
The language of the referendum was presented by Agriculture, Zoning and Emergency Service Committee Chairman Bill Flott to be as such: “In my township, a ‘yes’ vote would support a distance of 1,600 feet between wind turbines and residences. A ‘no’ vote would increase that distance more than double, and may reduce the number of wind turbines in Livingston County.”
After Flott motioned for a vote on passing that language for the referendum, a number of Board members offered their thoughts on the topic.
First to speak was Mark Runyon, who voiced concern with the complexity of the phrasing.
“First, I want to say that I definitely support the idea of a referendum, but this language, to me, is way too complicated,” Runyon said. “I wish we could have said it a lot simpler than this, because I think it’s just way too complicated.”
Board Vice Chairman Bob Young noted how much work had been done to arrive at the language that they had.
“We’ve been working on this referendum question for what seems like a year or more,” Young said. “We’ve talked, we’ve discussed, we’ve cussed … We didn’t come up with a perfect wording for it, but it was hours of deliberation and it’s what tried to piece together that we thought would be palatable.”
Member Mike Ingles questioned why such a referendum would appear on the ballot without the county having received an answer on whether townships could establish their own setbacks from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.
Member Kelly Cochran Cohlman wondered if the language was slanted or biased due to the reference to the possible decrease in WECS built in Livingston County. Young replied that the language was designed to try and put as much information and context before voters as possible, particularly those who might not be well versed on the subject.
When the matter was finally put to a vote, Board Chairman Marty Fannin and members Kelly Arbogast, Justin Goembel, Bob Weller, Daryl Holt, Stan Weber, Dave Heath, Tim Shafer, Vicki Allen, Ron Kestner, Bill Peterson, Young, Flott and Ingles all voted in its favor. Members Jack Vietti, Cochran Cohlman and Runyon voted against it, ultimately meaning that the motion was carried.
During public comment, local resident and U.S. Navy veteran Robert Edwards raised concerns with the Veterans Assistance Commission, which was noted at the meeting by Kesner, the commission’s committee vice chairman, to be looking at reducing its budget by 2 to 3 percent.
Edwards said it was ironic that the Board would perform the Pledge of Allegiance before the meeting since its members were “throwing veterans under the bus.” The veteran had previously expressed frustration with the VAC in a June 15 article in the Daily Leader over the committee’s transportation capabilities.
The next to speak was VAC President Chris Studebaker, who rebutted Edwards’ remarks, saying that though tough decisions were, indeed, being made with the committee, that it was unfair for the latter to lay all the blame on VAC Superintendent Tom Bailey for budget shortfalls.
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