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CalRidge Wind Farm’s unpaid taxes hurting Champaign County

Ted Hartke, owner of Hartke Engineering and Surveying, first believed that InvEnergy’s California Ridge (CalRidge) Wind Farm being built in his community and next to his house would be beneficial. InvEnergy promised new jobs and economic growth to Champaign and Vermilion County. The project began construction in 2012.

He changed his opinions about the turbine soon after it was turned on.

“When they turned on the wind turbines, they made so much noise that you could not sleep in your house,” Hartke said. “My wife and I stayed in our house for about eleven months and we left and abandoned our house and moved into a mobile home.”

The Hartkes had to wait over a year before they could buy another house elsewhere. His arduous experience caused him to investigate InvEnergy and he discovered that the company not only failed on its promises to bring in jobs and economic prosperity, it had failed to pay its taxes.

“They are way behind on paying their taxes and, if you look at Champaign County, the Champaign County Nursing Home is on the verge of either closing or being folded to a private entity because the county cannot afford to continue paying for the nursing home and the cost of the nursing home because they have holdouts on the tax payments,” Hartke said. “I think InvEnergy owes about $450,000.”

The $450,000 is just one year’s worth of taxes, Hartke claimed. He discovered the tax discrepancies when browsing the legal postings in the Champaign News-Gazette. InvEnergy showed up about forty times on forty different properties, according to Hartke. It also has the largest unpaid tax bill in the entire county.

Hartke compiled his discovery and research and worked with the Edgar County Watchdogs to publish the piece.

The entire situation has left the community in a hard spot. The Champaign County Board needs money to pay for new facilities and move its government offices but cannot afford to do so, according to Hartke. They are now asking for a property tax raise. Meanwhile, the county is still short the $450,000 taxes owed to them.

“The local government will just have to go without this money,” Hartke said. “They’re shorted on their budgets. When taxes go unpaid, that means that cash is not in the bank for the local government to fix up the road or replace a bridge or buy equipment for patching potholes or paying for taking care of the elderly in the nursing home – all those little things that seem like they can’t be fixed. It really makes it bad when you lose your income and the turbines run for free without paying their fair share.”