DAKOTA CITY – The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved the wording in a proposed wind tower ordinance at Monday’s meeting.
There has been interest in energy companies setting up wind farms in Humboldt County and the supervisors have been working for months on an ordinance to protect the county’s infrastructure. On Monday, they finally approved wording, but Supervisor Erik Underberg said he was extremely dissatisfied with the ordinance.
The board has already set May 7 as the date for the first reading, a date which didn’t set well with at least one farmer.
Pat Hill said the ordinance would affect mainly farmers and the first reading date would come at a time when she and other farmers are struggling to catch up on planting due to late snows.
Supervisor Carl Mattes said more than farmers are going to be affected by the ordinance, and farmers can come in for half an hour for the reading.
Board Chairman Bruce Reimers said it didn’t matter to him what date the board picked, in fact he would prefer January when his term as chairman expires.
Auditor Peggy Rice said the entire ordinance does not have to be read out loud at the readings, as long as copies are available for the public in the auditor’s office. The board is not required to have a public hearing on the ordinance, just three readings and the second and third readings could be waived if the board chooses. However, she has recommended the board go through with all three.
Underberg asked what the difference was between a public hearing and the first reading.
“A public hearing you have to publish notice for 10 days ahead of time, no less than four and no more than 10,” Rice said.
The public has had months to comment on the ordinance, she said. The board does not have to publish the ordinance before the readings, but it has to publish it before it becomes effective, Rice said.
Supervisor David Lee said he felt County Attorney Jon Beaty has done everything on the ordinance the board asked of him. If people have objections to it they don’t have to attend a reading, just send their objection in writing to the board, he said.
“I have publicly stated this is not a good enough ordinance for what we are dealing with,” Underberg said. “I’m extremely dissatisfied with the way this ordinance has been put together to date. It’s a good start, but it is not finished in my opinion.”
He said he is in favor of having the readings and moving forward with it.
“We started with nothing, it’s a good start,” Underberg said.
Underberg said he was not opposed to the date, but with the way the ordinance has been written.
Reimers said the board isn’t telling landowners what they can do with their own property but “If this thing does go through we are protecting our tile, our roads, stuff that we have interest in.”
“We are not sitting in this office telling the farmer what they can and can’t do on their property,” Lee said. ”That’s not our job. You have to get along with your neighbors. If you don’t want the wind towers and your neighbor does then you better sit down and talk with your neighbor and get it worked out that way, because we are not going to sit up here and tell you you can’t have it on your property.”
The eight-page ordinance sets requirements and information to be met and supplied with the application. It also establishes setbacks and special safety standards and designs. Discontinuation, decomissioning, and abandonment of towers is addressed as well as noise levels and protecting roads and drainage systems. The county zoning administrator will have 30 days to review the application and provide the board with a copy of the application. The supervisors will set a public hearing on the application no later than 30 days after the review period. At least one representative of the applicant who is familiar with all aspects of the project is required to attend,
Lee and Mattes approved accepting the ordinance as written and sticking with May 7 as the first reading. Underberg opposed. Supervisor Rick Pedersen was absent.
There are still plenty of opportunities to make changes in the ordinance, Mattes said.
In other business, the board discussed what do to about county employees who are expected to work when the courthouse closes and other county employees get to go home because of inclement weather.
Reimers said Sheriff Dean Kruger has been contacted by several employees who do not get the opportunity to go home.
“His question was are our people going to get time and a half since they work and everyone else went home” Reimers said.
The employees include dispatchers and secondary road workers.
In order to do so, personnel policy would have to be changed, Rice said.
The matter also came up several years ago, Mattes said.
“We talked about essential employees, they don’t have a choice,” Rice said. ”They have to be there. Courthouse people don’t have to be there.”
The courthouse policy doesn’t cover the dispatchers and secondary road workers, she said.
“Essential services are just that. I feel for the guys who work for the county, the state, or whomever who have to be out on the roads and do their job, but they did sign up for that, its a rough deal,” Underberg said.
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