Emotions ran high at the most recent County Board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 7. Many community members of Pilot Grove Township and Barber Township were in attendance to express their displeasure of two separate conditional use permit (CUP) requests which were presented to the board.
In a roll call vote, the county commissioners approved the resolutions of both CUP requests. District 5 commissioner Tom Warmka abstained from voting on either request citing a possible conflict of interest.
EDF Renewable Energy will now begin the process of erecting meteorological (MET) towers on the property of James and Robin Smith of Pilot Grove Township, and Raymond Rauenhorst of Barber Township.
While the tower in Pilot Grove will be 80 meters, high, the tower in Barber Township will be 81.3 meters. Both projects will be located within the A-2 General Agriculture District.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, non-participating land owner Andy Pierce of Pilot Grove Township was among the many citizens in attendance who opposed to the project.
“There are a lot of young families that live and work in Pilot Grove, and are the next generation of farmers and voices for our agricultural land,” Pierce said. “We do not want to see that ruined by an industrial park.”
Pierce, along with other citizens, expressed concerns with potential environmental and safety hazards associated with the construction of new MET towers. Business ethics were also a main point of contention for concerned community members.
“This may all be legal, but just because something is legal doesn’t make it right, and I think we need to consider that,” said Tim Nelson of Emerald Township.
Meanwhile, EDF Renewable Energy representative P.J. Saliterman addressed the various concerns raised by public, which also included questions as to how the project would be funded and whether they are safe.
“The MET towers are all privately funded,” Saliterman said. “We go through great lengths to design these MET towers to enhance the safety of them. As far as contamination concerns, there is none.”
As the board discussed their position on the issue, District 3 commissioner Bill Groskreutz took time to weigh in on why he favors the project, as well as social media rumors he had recently been made aware of. According to Groskreutz, these rumors suggest members of the County Board may have accepted bribes in relation to the economic development opportunity.
“I was very offended when it was brought to my attention, and I think the rest of the board would say the same thing,” Groskreutz said. “None of us has accepted a dime, a cup of coffee, a doughnut, or anything in that regard.
“We have been very restrictive in the past as far as what we’ve allowed for development. Some of our farmers have probably lost the abilities to generate income and I don’t want to see us restricting that income in the future,” Groskreutz continued.
Other action items from the meeting included:
Austin Bressler was appointed to the Huntley Sewer Board.
The board approved the hiring of Jason Casias as a jailer/dispatcher.
The board authorized a two percent wage increase to non-union members.
A motion to accept the county’s two-year feedlot program was authorized.
Pete Hassing’s resignation from the planning and zoning board was granted.
Milton Steele was appointed to fill out Clarann Sayre’s term on the extension committee.
The board accepted a voting equipment grant with a dollar amount yet to be determined.