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Conneaut could file lawsuit over wind turbine

CONNEAUT – The city of Conneaut is moving closer to filing a lawsuit regarding a lightning-damaged wind turbine overlooking Lake Erie.

Legal action may be imminent, Conneaut City Manager James Hockaday said at a recent City Council meeting. A year-long contractual window given the turbine’s owner to make repairs expired in August, clearing the way for the city to pursue a remedy in the courts.

“We’re in the process of making that filing,” Hockaday told council.

Conneaut Law Director Kyle Smith said Friday he cannot discuss details, but did confirm legal action is near.

“We’re close to it,” he said.

At issue is the 400-kilowatt turbine adjacent to the city’s sewage treatment plant that was severely damaged by a lightning strike in February 2017. The blast shattered one of the turbine’s blades and heavily damaged its generator.

The big machine, which towers over marinas at the city’s waterfront, was installed in 2010 by NexGen Energy of Colorado.

The city entered into a 10-year contract with NexGen for a turbine to help power the sewage treatment plant. Last year, NexGen told the city it wanted to stretch the contract to 2030 to raise the money necessary to fix the turbine, officials said at the time.

NexGen estimated the cost of repairs at $250,000, city administrators said.

Since then, the turbine apparently became the property of Conneaut City Wind, LLC, officials have said. In the spring, city administrators said they have had no luck contacting company officials regarding the turbine.

Conneaut City Wind LLC, which filed documents with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office in September 2009, is still active, according to the SOS website. Efforts to find company officials were unsuccessful Friday.

The turbine produced about 20 percent of the electricity used at the treatment plant.

In 2016, the last full year of the turbine’s operation, NexGen charged the city $59,000 for the electricity it produced.

The city is charged only when the turbine is producing power, officials have said. Direct Energy, the primary power supplier, is filling the void, officials have said.

City Council members have complained the turbine was an eyesore that cast a pall on one of the city’s prime tourist areas.

Hockaday, at the recent council meeting, said the city’s law department has been giving the turbine – and the turbine contract – a lot of attention.

“The law office has been working on

this for some time,” he said. “They’re working at an appropriate pace. We have to go with the contract we have, not the one we wished we had.”

A larger turbine at Conneaut Middle School, also erected by NexGen at about the same time, never performed as expected. NexGen filed a lawsuit against parts manufacturers that is still working through the courts.