Elected officials in Knightstown and New Castle have decided to remain neutral when it comes to wind farms in Henry County.
At the Knightstown Town Council’s Aug. 25 meeting, Susan Huhn, an independent candidate seeking the Henry County Commissioner southern district seat, made a presentation in which she outlined her thoughts on why commercial wind turbines should not be welcomed in Henry County. She asked the council to consider drafting and supporting a resolution denouncing wind farm development
Following discussion of the idea, council member Valerie Trump said she supported the idea of signing such a resolution and following a unanimous vote, the council instructed town attorney Gregg Morelock to prepare such a resolution for the council’s Sept. 20 meeting.
At the Sept. 20 meeting, and before the proposed resolution was presented, the council heard from Apex Clean Energy representative Brenna Gunderson. She presented information about the wind farm Apex has in mind for Henry County. Gunderson countered many of the negative claims Huhn made the previous month and answered several questions posed by council members.
Council member Trump in particular expressed concerns about the reliability of wind power, where power generated locally would go and who it would benefit, the impact turbines might potentially have on property values and the possibility the turbines would adversely impact future economic development efforts. Gunderson addressed each of those concerns, though Trump did not appear to be satisfied with the responses she received.
“We have a two mile fringe outside the town for economic development and when I look at it, you’re setting those turbines inside that two mile fringe,” Trump said.
Additional questions were raised and comments made before council president Sarah Ward said, “The commissioners are going to make the decision, is that right? It doesn’t matter what the town says anyway. … I think if we’re smart we just keep our nose out of it. We’ve got enough problems to take care of in our own town.”
Several audience members spoke in favor of wind development in Henry County, which was just the opposite of what happened at the council meeting a month prior.
Following nearly an hour of discussion, Trump pointed out the council asked Morelock to prepare a resolution opposing the turbines and suggested they vote on it.
Council member Roger Hammer said he appreciated Gunderson’s input and that he was not inclined to support the resolution, although he stated he personally did not want to look at a wind turbine out his back door every day.
Council member Kevin Knott said there wasn’t enough information about the pros and cons of wind energy to make a decision for or against wind energy development and made a motion to withdraw support for the resolution expressed the previous month. He said, in part, “that we make no decision one way or the other” and “remain neutral” on the matter. Knott’s motion was seconded and passed 4-1 with Trump voting against. She explained her vote was based on the opposition to wind development expressed by audience members the month prior.
Monday, Huhn addressed the New Castle City Council and again shared her concerns about wind development. As she did in Knightstown, she asked the council to consider opposing wind development in Henry County. With very little discussion, the council declined to do so.
Apex originally wanted to place 29 turbines in Henry County, primarily in Franklin and Dudley townships, although the company is considering expanding the project boundaries to the west into Spiceland Township, Gunderson said.
According to information shared by Gunderson, which also has been distributed by the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp., the project as originally proposed would be a $300 million investment on Apex’s part with $60 million of that in Henry County and the remainder in Rush County, which has since voted to prohibit any wind development. It would also result in $1.2 million in direct payments and $6 million in additional property tax payments to Henry County, Gunderson said, as well as an undisclosed amount to be paid directly to participating property owners.
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