Several township trustees and residents expressed discontent with pending wind turbine projects in Seneca County during a county commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.
County Clerk Nikki Smith said the county received correspondence from Scipio Township Trustees asking commissioners to rescind the Alternative Energy Zone and letting the county know the township plans to testify to the Ohio Power Siting Board against the Republic Wind and Seneca Wind projects.
The Alternative Energy Zone is a program that makes wind projects more economically feasible for companies. The OPSB must approve wind projects before construction begins.
The Seneca Wind Project would stretch across about 25,000 acres – in Eden, Bloom, Scipio, Reed and Venice townships – and could include 70-81 turbines.
The Republic Wind Project would cover about 30,000 acres in Seneca and Sandusky counties – roughly south of Green Springs, north of Republic and southwest of Bellevue. The project plans for 58-80 turbines. The proposed turbines are as tall as 591 feet tall with blades as long as 445 feet.
Adams Township Trustee Dave Carrothers said he opposes wind projects.
“We are local and county officials,” he said. “We have to serve (the people) in the best possible way and as the majority wants.”
Carrothers said he took issue with the projects because there is no local control.
“I ran for and received office. I’m in my third term, and then I am told that what I think and my opinion doesn’t matter about wind farms,” he said. “Why do we not have the power as township trustees to OK them and not OK them?”
Adams Township Trustee Bill Frankart said for the past 11 years, when people had issues with wind projects, he told them to go to the OPSB.
“Now all of the sudden, they are telling people in the township they can’t intervene,” he said. “I think we need to take and ask you guys to let the people of Adams Township speak on behalf of their own properties.
“I agree with them, they feel they’re getting deaf ears from the commissioners on that. You guys really need to listen to what the people are telling you.”
Commissioner Shayne Thomas told people to take concerns to the OPSB and state officials, because the county has limited power on the issue.
Frankart said the county could rescind the AEZ, which would make the projects less feasible.
Thomas said he believes since Republic Wind and Seneca Wind already are part of the AEZ, it would be too late to remove them from it.
“The existing projects are already accepted under the AEZ,” he said.
Resident Jim Feasel said the AEZ takes leverage away from the county when negotiating future wind projects.
“There are land agents all over the county buying up leases for further projects,” he said. “In Michigan they are proposing 750-feet-tall turbines. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a project could come in the next week with 50-100 at 750-feet tall.
“With the AEZ in place, we’d automatically give them a tax break. Rescinding the AEZ just allows you to negotiate.”
Seneca Anti-Wind Union leader Chris Aichholz agreed.
“If we have (the AEZ), it’s just automatic approval, there’s no back and forth at all,” he said. “Someone who has been in business – I went to school for business – I don’t see how it’s smart business for the county with the AEZ. We don’t really have that seat at the table.”
Commissioner Holly Stacy said she views the AEZ as protection for the county because of road-use maintenance agreements that obligate the company to return roads to their prior condition after construction, because of educational requirements within the AEZ agreement and because of emergency training obligations.
“I have no desire to rescind it,” she said.
Feasel said those protections still could be obtained through negotiations without the AEZ in place.
Stacy also said bringing in revenue is one of the responsibilities of commissioners and the Republic Wind Project could bring more than $90 million to the community over 30 years.
Commissioner Mike Kerschner, who supports the anti-wind cause, said he believes no amount of money will change the concerns of wind opponents.
“The sense is, they are in harm’s way. Whether it’s all real or if it’s just a concern, it doesn’t matter that much to me,” he said. “What matters to me, the people most affected by this, have the least financial gain. People are very concerned their property values may decrease and they’re going to be in harm’s way.
“Just forget about the damn money. There are a few that are going to benefit and many that are going to have the ill effects.”
Kerschner said rescinding the AEZ needs to happen.
“We don’t need to continue to put this (welcome) mat out and have these folks coming in,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Reed Township Trustee David Wright said his township also opposes wind projects.
“I’m here on behalf of the citizens and trustees,” he said. “We don’t want this wind farm. It’s going to affect a lot of people. I know it’s the dollar signs … we don’t want that.”
Wright said the issue has pitted neighbor against neighbor and family against family.
“It’s a big mess,” he said. “We don’t want this. What do we need to do to get this out of our backyard?”
Resident Dawn Hoepf urged Stacy and Thomas to listen to the anti-wind union.
“You can’t miss those yellow signs when you head down the road,” she said, referring to anti-wind signs. “Those signs are voices … those signs are all over.”
Wright said Stacy and Thomas should listen to constituents and township trustees, many of whom have approved resolutions to intervene or to testify about the projects.
“If you don’t take care of the people, you won’t be re-elected,” he said.
In other business, County Administrator Stacy Wilson said four bids were received for a pavement marking program that will include work in several townships.
She said the engineer’s estimate for the project was $119,133.
The county received the following bids:
• A and A Safety, of Amelia, for $90,645.34.
• Oglesby Construction, of Norwalk, for $96,690.94.
• Zimmerman Paint Contractors, of Fremont, for $80,216.80.
• Aeromark, of Streetsboro, for $85,325.40.
The bids are to be reviewed before a contractor is chosen.
During new business, the board approved:
• A $100,000 supplemental appropriation to the Maintenance and Repair Fund.
• A $10,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund.
• A $2,000 appropriation adjustment within the Maintenance and Repair Fund.
• A $1,400 appropriation adjustment within the General Fund.
• A $5,000 supplemental appropriation within the General Fund.
• Setting 10:30 a.m. July 24 at the commissioners’ office to receive bids for the CR 19 and CR 39 pavement resurfacing project.
• Authorizing annual assessments for several single county ditches being maintained by the county in 2018.
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