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County takes next step toward Reading Wind Farm

The Lyon County Commission signed two agreements with Reading Wind Energy, LLC related to an ongoing wind farm project in Reading during a meeting Thursday morning at the courthouse.

The wind farm is a project of RES Americas and has been a point of discussion off and on for nearly a decade. Planning and Zoning Director Sam Seeley said the county needed to sign a Road Use Maintenance Agreement and Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement in order to move forward with the project.

“In process of doing [the Reading Wind Farm project] they’ve been using county roads,” Seeley said. “There may be some maintenance that needs to be done to either repair or fix up a road or a structure on that road. This is an agreement usually done with wind construction companies so that the assets that are out there are protected and taken care of during this process. This is not a normal use of our roads.”

Seeley said it was a “normal” process to sign a road use maintenance agreement during wind farm projects. He said a survey would be conducted beforehand so the county was aware of road conditions before work actually began. The county had previously contracted with Kirkham Michael for those purposes.

“Our road and bridge department will be involved in that to make sure the maintenance is being taken care of,” Seeley said.

The PILOT agreement protects the county government for some or all of the property tax revenue lost due to tax exempt ownership or use of real property over the course of the project.

“For those engineering services from Kirkham Michael and other services from the professional side that the maximum ‘not to exceed’ amount would be $500,000,” Seeley said. “Osage County’s portion of [the project] would be included in that total amount. We have a ($2 million) bond in place for if there are any major things that need to take place right away.”

Chair Rollie Martin asked if the bond was for the county’s protection, and Seeley said it was.

Seeley said a county-managed account has been set up for the project that will be used to facilitate payments for professional and engineering services for the duration of the project. Reading Wind Energy will be reimbursing those payments.

“As the project goes on, Reading Wind Energy will reimburse that account to make sure it has enough in there to cover those costs,” Seeley said. “In the end, the main goal is that the county will not be paying out of the taxpayers’ pockets for this.”

Seeley said additional protections for the county have also been put in place after speaking with other counties that have gone through the process.

Martin said the wind farm project was providing an “exciting” opportunity for the county.

“This is a new adventure for the county and I appreciate all of the senior management staff who have dealt with this,” Martin said. “We have a good agreement.”

Commissioner Scott Briggs said he felt the agreements in place would adequately protect the county during the construction process, and said he was glad to see it being completed without the use of taxpayer money.

Road repaving

Commissioners also gave direction to County Engineer Chip Woods to repave and seal an approach on Road 290 and Americus Road. The approach had previously been paved and maintained by the county. Woods said his department was converting the approaches on many roads to gravel to save on maintenance costs throughout the year.

Landowners in the area, however, said that particular approach had been paid for by a citizen in the 1960s. Woods said the county did not have records of any agreements from that far back, so he could not dispute that such an agreement existed. Commissioners said the approach should be resealed and maintained by the county due to the presumed existence of the agreement.

Commissioners also:

Approved replacing the engine for the Road and Bridge department’s sign truck at an estimated cost of $11,695.12. The payment will be made through two accounts.

Approved warrants payable in the amount of $48,899.66.

Approved minutes from the Oct. 4 meeting.

The Lyon County Commission will join the Emporia City Commission at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday for a joint city/county meeting in city conference room 1AB. The commission will then meet for its regular action session at 8 a.m. Thursday at the courthouse.