In a meeting as long as it was contentious, the Livingston County Board narrowly voted 12-11 Thursday evening to extend its moratorium on wind energy conversion systems applications, preventing wind energy corporations from being even able to file for an application.
Another matter that generated considerable discussion was the appointment of Sue Bergan to the Reddick Community Fire Protection District, causing several of the fire officials in the township to threaten resignation.
Before Agriculture, Zoning and Emergency Services Committee Chairman Bill Flott put the motion to extend the moratorium on the floor, he pointed out that his committee had voted 6-0 in favor of ending the moratorium because it was believed it had been extended long enough, having existed for more than a year.
Board member Carolyn Gerwin said that, while she recognized the moratorium had been in place for an exceptionally long period of time, it gave the Board “options” in reference to a WECS ordinance still being discussed.
However, Board member Mike Ingles opined that the moratorium acted as a blanket ban on all WECS proposals, and potentially hurt areas of Livingston County that may be more amenable to wind turbines in their vicinity than others.
“We have a moratorium in place for basically a fairly small geographic area of the county that – and I fully understand – don’t want windmills,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. But there may be other areas of the county that are fine with the existing ordinance.”
Board member Mark Runyon clarified that the vote still had to go through the Zoning Board of Appeals, and was in favor of voting to extending the moratorium until a concrete, possibly updated ordinance was no longer in dispute.
Before the motion was to put to a vote, others on the Board had expressed disinclination to extend the moratorium for several reasons, including the fact that legal counsel had advised them only to extend the moratorium for six months, which the Board had already well exceeded.
Once Board Chairman Marty Fannin called for a roll call vote, he and members Kathy Arbogast, Justin Goembel, James Carley, Bill Mays, Stan Weber, John Yoder, Kelly Cochran Cohlman, Tim Shafer, Vicki Allen, Runyon and Gerwin voted for moratorium’s approval.
Members Jason Bunting, Bob Weller, Daryl Holt, Jack Vietti, David Heath, Joe Steichen, Bob Young, Bill Flott, Ron Kestner, Bill Peterson and Ingles voted “no.”
The other issue, concerning Bergan’s appointment, came up in Vietti’s Election Rules and Legislation Committee report; it was noted that appointments of this nature were not usually competitive and thus, were not known for sources of much controversy. The Board voted unanimously to approve Bergan to the spot.
During public comment, however, several people involved in the Reddick fire district voiced their displeasure with the vote. The resistance to Bergan’s appointment stemmed from several issues: first, her lobbying to save the Reddick Grade School building and second, her familial ties to Steichen, who is on the committee that appointed her.
Reddick Fire Protection District Chief Roger Ribbke was so opposed to Bergan’s appointment, that he said he’d consider quitting if the decision was not reversed, and believed other fire fighters in the district would also follow suit.
Steichen had the last word, however, and questioned the commitment of persons sworn to safeguarding the lives of residents if they would quit over a political appointment.