An Ogle Township meeting intended to be a vetting session for a proposed wind farm was stopped within minutes Monday night by a heated exchange.
Almost immediately after supervisors Chairman Harvey Weyandt Jr. called the meeting to order, Paint Township resident Joseph J. Cominsky asked to give an anti-wind farm presentation to a crowd of about 45 people.
The request was to counter a presentation by Chicago-based energy company Invenergy, which had representatives at Monday’s meeting.
Cominsky and Weyandt then got into an argument, causing the chairman to suspend the meeting until later this month because of a lack of order. “I’m just done with your baloney,” Weyandt said to Cominsky.
Weyandt said that if Cominsky would have asked for time to give a demonstration prior to the meeting, he would have been allotted equal time as Invenergy to speak.
Weyandt said if Cominsky follows that proper procedure, he will be allowed to speak at the rescheduled meeting.
“I’m just sorry that all of these people showed up and didn’t get the chance to speak because of one person,” Weyandt said following the meeting. “I wanted to open the whole meeting up so that if anybody left here with questions it wasn’t because of us.
“It ain’t the Cominsky show no more, I’ll tell you that.”
Cominsky likened Monday’s actions to those in a communist country.
“I thought we lived in the United States of America, not the USSR,” he said. “Believe me, this fight just started.”
He said he plans to follow protocol and present at the next meeting.
Invenergy has been collecting data from three meteorological towers in Ogle and Shade townships. The data is to determine whether a wind farm would be feasible on Shaffer Mountain.
Cominsky, who owns about 90 acres in Ogle Township, has been opposed to any wind farm on the grounds that he believes property values will plummet if the turbines are built. He has spoken out publicly about his opposition and has been trying to get the supervisors to amend an ordinance to increase setback distances from properties and houses.
Cominsky also fought against a proposed wind farm on the property about a decade ago. Gamesa, of Madrid, Spain, dropped plans to install turbines in the same area in 2012, citing a combination of factors, including uncertainty surrounding federal tax credits.
Invenergy business development analyst Ryan Van Portfliet, who attended Monday’s meeting, said he and his team will return to the next scheduled meeting in Ogle to hear residents’ concerns.
Portfliet said there are a lot of misconceptions about wind farms and “there really isn’t an adverse impact” on residents.
“A lot of people have concerns – we’re used to doing this. So if there are concerns we like to come out,” he said. “We’ll make ourselves available until everyone wants to go home.”
He said that because his company is still in the data collection phase for Somerset County, more details about the proposed farm are undetermined.
Portfliet was joined Monday by Invenergy business development Vice President Michael Kaplan. Kaplan said that although the company sometimes gets pushback from residents when talking about building a wind farm, Somerset County has been unique.
“Bluntly, I’d say most folks don’t get this excited this early in the process,” he said. “I really want to understand where the community is coming from.”
Cominsky brushed off the representatives’ claims that they want to address residents’ concerns. He said the company is only trying to look like it cares in order to protect its financial interest.
He vowed to continue to oppose the wind farm – even if the process kills him.
“At 69 years old my health ain’t the best,” he said, “but I ain’t dead yet.”
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