The Board of Brown County Commissioners met in regular session on Monday, Jan. 14, with the following members present: Keith Olsen. Also present were County Clerk Melissa Gormley and Commissioner Elect Richard L. Lehmkuhl. County Attorney Kevin Hill was present for a portion of the meeting.
Judge James Patton administered the oath of office to elected official Richard Lehmkuhl.
Nick Aberle was present to discuss the fire department procedure that he asked the commissioners about at the previous meeting. Aberle spoke with fire personnel, and has an understanding of the procedures. Sheriff John Merchant explained the dispatch procedures.
Gormley reported to the commissioners on the annual bids. Gormley stated she will be sending out the hay bid and oil bid. Bids will be opened on Feb. 28.
Gormley also told the commissioners that a van will need to be rented for the Extension Office in February.
Sheriff Merchant reported there are 16 inmates in the county jail – 15 males and one female.
Merchant updated the commissioners on an arrest made in Brown County concerning stolen property. Merchant stated that the community did a great job of reporting issues surrounding the incident.
Merchant stated that he was asked to speak about the emergency response on the wind farm. He is researching some of the issues.
Commissioner Olsen commented on the wind farm. He told all those present to send letters to the commissioners before the meeting on Feb. 28.
Olsen stated that he has told residents not to sign anything and to talk to your neighbors before you do anything. Sheriff Merchant said if residents are feeling pressured, they can call the Sheriff’s Office.
Brown County resident Matt Tedman asked the commissioners about a meeting later this summer for deciding on the agreement. He asked if the towers could be erected without the agreement. Commissioner Olsen told him no. Tedman stated that he is just trying to get a better understanding of the process.
Brown County Resident Ben Swinger was present to voice his concerns about living next to wind turbines. Swinger stated that he had just purchased some land outside of Hamlin. He spoke of the noise level of the turbines. He also had information available about land values. Swinger had a list of things he would like addressed, such as decibel levels, setbacks, structure heights, wear and tear on roads and bridges, the effect on property values, who is responsible for the removal of turbines if the project is abandoned, can medical helicopters land around the area, and what other things are affected by the turbines. Swinger encouraged the commissioners to go out to a wind farm and experience it for themselves.
Kent Grimm asked if the wind energy company could just come in and start erecting the towers.
Attorney Hill discussed the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and what the county is currently working on. Hill told those present that the county is going to interview engineers. The actual construction of the wind turbines will not happen until the CUP agreement is signed.
Time wise, construction will not be until the end of the year and CUP negotiation will be this summer. Setbacks can take place in the CUP. Amy Kopp asked about overlay zoning. Hill said he was aware of resolutions and spot zoning.
Grimm stated that “Living with Dekalb County Turbines” was an educational YouTube video.
Swinger asked if road and bridge agreements would include money going to the townships. Attorney Hill stated that would be included in the discussions in the CUP.
Commissioner Olsen reminded everyone that they could call the commissioners with concerns.
Selena Brownlee had information on wind farms being banned from Europe. Olsen stated to write letter to Senator Dennis Pyle and Representative Randy Garber.
Morrill resident Calvin Brocher suggested the commissioners get something on the books before the wind farms come in. Brocher commented that you can’t give away acres of your ground.
Dalton Menold asked the commissioners if their hands are tied on what kind of zoning they can do if construction has already started? Attorney Hill stated that the county is aware of that, and it would be discussed at a future meeting.
Jenna Swinger stated that she wanted Commissioner Dwight Kruse to be aware of everyone’s concerns. She also asked if setbacks would be the same in the country as they would be in the towns. Attorney Hill said that since the county has not retained an engineer, that would be something to speak with them about. The county would get public input before any decisions were made.
Linda Bailey asked the commissioners if a moratorium could be put in place. Attorney Hill stated that the commissioners are exploring all options, but the commissioners feel there is sufficient time to educate themselves without doing that.
Also at the meeting:
A liquor license for Country Cabin was approved.
Also approved were Emergency Vehicle Permits for Lucas Linden and Cody Nuss.
Tax change orders 2018-27, 2018-29 through 2018-31, and 2018-34 were approved and signed.
Commissioner Lehmkuhl stated he would like a prayer to be recited before every meeting. He will contact someone to be at the meetings.
Commissioner Olsen stated that the commissioners do not control the value of your taxes. That is through the state. He does not want people blaming the commissioners for their taxes.
Commissioners entered into a 10-minute executive session on non-elected personnel with the two commissioners, Gormley and Hill present to discuss personnel matters of non-elected personnel with executive session necessary to protect privacy interests. Following the executive session, no binding action was taken.
Commissioners entered into a second 10-minute executive session on non-elected personnel with the two commissioners, Gormley and Yvonne Murrow of the Appraisers Office present to discuss personnel matters of non-elected personnel with executive session necessary to protect privacy interests. Following the executive session, no binding action was taken.
Commissioner Olsen stated that he contacted Jim Hills Window Company. They will be here this spring to replace windows.
Commissioners met Tuesday, Jan. 22. These minutes were not available at The Herald’s press time.
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