During a marathon meeting of the Seneca County commissioners Tuesday that lasted two hours, several residents from the Republic area gave presentations in opposition to the construction of wind turbines in that area.
Those protesting the establishment of wind turbines were hoping to persuade the three commissioners to change course in their support of changes in the law that would make construction of the turbines easier to achieve. Despite the property owners’ pleas and efforts, all three commissioners remained steadfast.
At the heart of the issue is the establishment of alternative energy zones (AEZs) that allow property owners to lease a portion of their land to companies that build wind turbines, solar panels, and other forms of unconventional power sources.
The turbines being planned for the county will stand nearly 600 feet tall.
The state legislature is currently considering a change in some rules for AEZs that would allow equipment, including wind turbines, to be built closer to neighboring properties. The commissioners have gone on record in support of those changes.
Jim Steinmetz told commissioners property rights of neighbors will be effected by the erection of the wind turbines.
“If (a neighboring property owner) wants to add on to his house, he needs to get permission from the company that owns the turbine,” Steinmetz said.
Ray Kuhn said the companies that own the turbines are “bullying” the neighboring property owners. Another property owner said the values of neighboring property will decline 40 percent, which would result in the county collecting less taxes from those properties.
Newspaper articles from the Van Wert County area were presented, showing many who were initially in favor of erecting wind turbines are now against them. After turbines were built there, many of the residents of that county say they are ruining the landscape and causing deaths to numerous birds who fly into them.
After nearly 45 minutes of property owners’ pleas, the commissioners were each asked to say where they stood on the issue.
In the words of Mike Kerschner, president of the board of commissioners, it’s all about what is best for the county in general.
“It’s a very difficult issue,” Kerschner said. “We’ve received responses from both sides, many in favor (of erecting the wind turbines), and many opposed. We have to do what’s best for the entire county.”
Commissioner Shayne Thomas said his position is not changing.
“I have not heard anything here to reverse (my opinion) on AEZs,” Thomas said, adding he has not seen the final language on the legislation that would change the rules.
Commissioner Holly Stacy said the county owes it to the businesses that have already invested money in the county to eventually build the turbines.
“They’ve made a significant investment and we shouldn’t pull the rug out from under them,” Stacy said.
Kerschner addressed the concern over a potential loss of property tax by the county.
“Each turbine will (generate) about $27,000 in tax revenue,” Kerschner said, adding that would be greater than any loss of property tax from neighboring properties.
Kerschner labeled any such property tax loss an “unintended consequence” of AEZs.
“I say let the people decide,” Kerschner said in summary of the issue. One of the neighboring property owners said that may translate into a voter referendum on the issue.
In other business, the commissioners viewed a presentation of a new branding initiative between the county and the city of Tiffin.
The branding project first began several years ago, but had fallen by the wayside for a time. It has since generated steam, and a final rendition of the initiative was presented to the commissioners Tuesday.
“The branding represents the interworkings of the city, the county, and the townships,” said Kerschner. “It shows the collaboration that has existed between the county and the city.”
David Zak, president and CEO of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp., said the villages and townships in the county can also get on board with the branding effort.
The branding logo shows images of the county and the city of Tiffin, including the cupola of the new Justice Center in the background, representing the collaborative effort to build the structure.
A sprouting tree depicts agriculture in the area, and water represents the overflowing of life, Zak said. A bridge is symbolic of the connection of the community.
The color teal is for the city of Tiffin, and green is for the county. Orange represents SIEDC, and navy blue depicts the local chamber of commerce.
The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the branding initiative, which will be used for stationery, business cards, signs, and websites.
The commissioners also voted to hire Kylie Gardner as their new assistant county administrator. County Administrator Stacy Wilson said interviews for the post have been ongoing for the past two months.
Thomas presented a proclamation for the Retired Service Volunteer Program that involves retired persons contributing their services for the good of the community.
During an opening of bids for replacement prestressed box beams, which will be used to reconstruct bridges on County Road 16 and Township Road 169, two bids were received.
A bid of $152,200 was received from Prestressed Services Industries of Columbus, and a bid of $160,781.98 was turned in by RD Zachrich of Defiance. An engineer’s estimate of the beams was $154,375.
In the middle of Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners voted to go into an executive session to discuss pending litigation, but no formal action was taken on the issue when the regular meeting reconvened.
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