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Learning from others’ mistakes: Commissioners discuss wind farm agreement  

Credit:  By Jason Tidd, Staff writer | Peabody Gazette-Bulletin | Oct. 26, 2017 | peabodykansas.com ~~

One commissioner wants the county to learn from Kingman County’s mistakes before signing a wind farm agreement.

“To me, this is big to protect our county,” commissioner Dianne Novak said. “Make a mistake and it’s going to cost us for years.”

She detailed highlights Monday from Kingman County’s wind farm agreements to consider when the county writes its own agreement with Tradewind Energy for a proposed project in the northwest part of the county. She gathered information from conversations and documents after a recent regional meeting of county commissioners in Abilene.

“There was a host of things they learned the hard way (on roads and taxes),” Novak said of Kingman County’s updated agreement.

She said their contract details default remedies and an $800,000 yearly payment in lieu of taxes, as well as what happens if property is reappraised from agricultural to commercial and how it would affect land owner property taxes.

Wind farms have a 10-year tax exemption.

The road maintenance agreement does not simply require repairing damaged roads after construction is complete, she said.

“They have to continually maintain them as they go along,” she said.

Novak said the county and wind farm placed $12 million escrow.

“It’s interesting that they even have $500,000 additionally in escrow, just in case the wind farms fail, that’s their money to sue them, which is cool,” she said. “That is smart.”

Attorney Brad Stout will review county wind farm conditional use permits after county counselor Susan Robson requested outside legal assistance.

Commissioners approved a contract with consultant Russ Ewy of Baughman Company to assist planning and zoning director Emma Tajchman. The department is also hiring part-time help, in part to assist with wind farm paperwork.

There will be a planning and zoning meeting to discuss the wind farm application at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Marion Community Center.

Road and bridge superintendent Jesse Hamm said wind farm haul routes are only at a “rough draft” stage. Developers are performing radar tests and taking core samples before finalizing plans.

The wind farm plans for springtime construction traffic to avoid what will be a rebuilt 330th Rd. Commissioner Kent Becker said the ongoing road construction has already improved the situation for people who live in the area.

“I drove two miles of it,” Becker said. “Even just ground up and packed it was much better.”

Three entry-level equipment operators were hired for the road and bridge department. Three trainings are set up for the end of the month and next month for new and veteran employees, sponsored by Caterpillar. Hamm said a grader operator training session in the spring was the first held in his 10 years with the department.

In other action:

St. Luke Hospital requested the county health department help pay $2,000 for two new signs. Commissioners said they want to review the lease before making a decision.
Commissioners directed county clerk Tina Spencer to write a draft version of a code of conduct for meeting attendees. Robson presented language used by the city of Marion for council meeting, but commissioners asked for a streamlined version that does not include time limits for speakers during public comment periods.
Commissioners approved an agreement with Salem Home in Hillsboro to accept back credit and catch up on billing after errors were corrected.

Source:  By Jason Tidd, Staff writer | Peabody Gazette-Bulletin | Oct. 26, 2017 | peabodykansas.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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