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County races become proxy battle for wind farms

MAYSVILLE, Mo. – Opposing views on the merits of wind power have risen up to the level of courthouse politics this summer in DeKalb County.

In two races – for presiding commissioner and for county clerk – wind has become one among a list of issues discussed during campaigns. Hard feelings over the introduction of wind turbines into the county have been welling up in recent years, and continue unabated this summer.

The county’s current presiding commissioner, Harold Allison, is a Republican who is using his campaign to tout the wind farms’ location in the county as a savior for economic development. He is seeking a third four-year term in office.

“I feel like our job was to get all the tax money we could,” he said of agreements allowing the companies to proceed with their development plans.

He said roughly 73 percent of the tax revenue paid by the wind farms is distributed to a total of 10 school districts that are part of the county’s tax base.

“It saved Union Star school,” Allison said, noting that a consolidation with the King City school district was averted. “That’s progress.”

A 99-year contract ensures the revenues will continue flowing to the schools and various other entities in the county.

“Everyone gets their cut,” said Allison, adding that the county also is included in that list – but not to the deficit of fire, ambulance and other public services. He said the county commission has no sway in determining where the revenues flow.

“That’s state-driven,” he said. “It helps make our budget a little easier to maintain.”

Despite those advantages, however, he understands why wind’s opponents feel the way they do.

“I’ve kind of got mixed emotions,” Allison said. “The downside is the strife it’s caused in the county,” he added, noting complaints over the turbine’s noise and fear of ill effects on both human and livestock health.

He countered a common contention by wind opponents that property values haven’t dropped as predicted. A new house is even being built in the shadow of one turbine, he added.

His opponent in the Aug. 7 Republican primary is Kyle Carroll, who refers to a commission decision to invite a Florida firm, NextEra Energy, to a multi-county gathering as producing bad optics to county residents. NextEra recently completed the county’s latest wind farm.

“It was pretty tone deaf,” Carroll said, who yet added he doesn’t “have an ax to grind” with the current county commission.

Carroll said the county had other options at its disposal for pursuing economic development.

“There are a lot of other businesses we could have had,” he said.

The wind farms, he continued, have been divisive for DeKalb County.

His campaign pledges include one project to have turbine lights switched off at night, while still protecting air corridor safety and returning a rural quality of life to residents.

He also said the county had a sufficient amount of funds in the bank when commissioners decided to pursue a law enforcement sales tax. Carroll also said school districts have enough revenue to hire resource officers to help provide security in the buildings, a central theme behind the sales tax proposal.

Meek also is seeking re-election on the Republican ticket, having taken over the office in 2011. The wind farms have become a factor even in her race by those opposed to the technology.

“It shouldn’t be,” she said, adding she can’t understand why wind has become part of the focus on the office’s duties. “Why it would have anything to do with my race, I don’t get it.”

The county clerk’s office, she continued, only has the responsibility of serving as a referral service to those with questions on the wind. Unlike the commission, the clerk has no voting power.

Like Allison, she believes the turbines have created new opportunities for the county. She also understands why opponents have expressed their views on the facilities, but also has a positive outlook for the county’s future.

“We’ve done a lot of good things,” Meek said. “The county is better off now than it has ever been … It’s helped our entities, our schools, our ambulance districts … I try to find the good in everything.”

News-Press Now was unable to contact Kristi Thomas, Meek’s opponent in the Republican primary.

DeKalb County’s other turbines belong to the Lost Creek Wind Farm and Osborn Wind Energy.