The Municipality of Chatham is doling out nearly $8 million in tax dollars for a chance to get a share of the profits generated from wind turbines.
Adding this kind money to municipal coffers would normally be welcomed by any politician, but not when it involves wind turbines.
Chatham-Kent council this week voted to approve spending $7.74 million to have the electrical utility Entegrus – owned 90 per cent by the municipality – exercise its option to buy a 15 per cent equity interest in the North Kent 1 Wind Turbine project, soon to be built north of Chatham.
However, it was not supported by everyone.
Wallaceburg Coun. Jeff Wesley voted against the project due to concerns raised that vibrations from the construction and operation of the wind farm will damage water wells.
“I had a moral dilemma, because I did not feel comfortable that we should be investing in a wind project until we have sorted out what is actually going on with the water wells in Chatham-Kent,” he said.
Wesley noted his vote against investing in the project was not a reflection of Entegrus.
There was only a brief discussion on the report when it came before Chatham-Kent council on Monday.
However, Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy was the only councillor who expressed his intention to not support it during the meeting.
Bondy said his decision is “based on the principle that I think we have enough wind turbines in our municipality.”
He added the turbines hasn’t helped electricity bills.
The report that was in the council package estimates the $7.74-million investment could generate a return of $17 million over 20 years.
South Kent Coun. Trevor Thompson, among the majority of who supported the investment, said the issue wasn’t about whether the municipality wants turbines or not.
“That project is going ahead, so the question is: ‘How much money do you want to make off them?’ he said.
“For me, the answer is: ‘As much as we can,’” he added.
Thompson said this isn’t spending $8 million in taxpayers’ money, “this is investing $8 million and getting a good return on it.”
He noted this is money that can be used for such purposes as reducing the tax burden or improving services, adding residents will let council know how they want that money spent.
Thompson said he has heard from a few people opposed to this investment “simply because they don’t like turbines.”
Entegrus CEO and president Jim Hogan said, “this is the first time we’re an actual partner, an investor in the wind project.”
He said in 2015 when the North Kent Wind group was seeking support for the project from Chatham-Kent, one of the things the municipality was able to negotiate was the opportunity to have an investment in the wind project.
“It is a good opportunity for us to grow our revenue and to give some money back to the community,” Hogan said.
He noted options have also been negotiated to invest in the Otter Creek and Romney wind farm projects currently in the works.
“We haven’t started any negotiations, we haven’t started looking at any of the returns, so we don’t know if we’re going to do that,” Hogan said.
Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a citizen group opposed to industrial wind turbines, said she doesn’t know of any other municipality that has invested millions of dollars in wind farm.
She believes it is “short-sighted” for a municipality to look at what financial benefit it can gain from a wind turbine project.
Citing the “mounting energy poverty” related to the cost the province has incurred for its green energy program, she said, “it really seems to be flying in the face of what people are feeling and thinking right now (about wind turbines).”
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