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Superintendent Ptacek shares thoughts on potential misconception within Lincoln Land Wind ad

A full-page ad in Wednesday’s Jacksonville Journal Courier has sparked some interest from District 117 administration.

The full-page ad in question appeared on page 5A of the Journal Courier and was for Lincoln Land Wind, who, along with Apex Clean Energy, has been looking at potentially constructing a 300-megawatt wind farm in eastern Morgan County. Myriad discussions with various groups, like the Morgan County Board of Commissioners and area school districts, as well as local citizens, for more than six months, with Apex and E.ON Climate & Renewables as two of the most heavily-involved companies.

However, the newspaper ad, which states that “the Lincoln Land Wind project will generate $43.8 million in new revenue for local schools in its first 25 years of operations,” has garnered a reaction from Jacksonville School District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek. According to Ptacek, his concern is a misconception regarding the monetary figure of $43.8 million presented in the ad. He explains his issue with the claim.

“The ad was actually brought to me by somebody that read this (ad) as implying that Jacksonville Public Schools was going to get some large windfall from the wind farm. I met with the individuals from the wind company earlier in the fall and we had gone over the numbers. I’m not making a judgement on the wind farm itself, I’m not giving an opinion on whether it should be in the county or not, but I let them know at that point and time that the marketing of the wind farm to the community as a windfall for the school district, if that were to happen, I would have to clarify that issue because Jacksonville School District does not receive much money from the wind farm,” says Ptacek.

Ptacek explains what the estimates are for the amount of money District 117 would actually receive as a result of this project.

“In the highest years early on, it could be up in the $80,000 a year. The Jacksonville Journal Courier estimated that Jacksonville Public Schools would get about $75,000 in the very first year. That’s compared to Franklin receiving $1.6 million, and New Berlin and Waverly each getting around $100,000. When you put that into perspective and look at those dollars compared to annual budgets, we have an annual budget of right around $38 million a year…Franklin’s annual budget is one-tenth of that, right around $3.8 million a year. So $1.6 million for Franklin would be the equivalent of our school district getting $16 million, which would be a phenomenal benefit to our community, but $75,000 a year I don’t think is enough to make an advertisement that’s saying that the local community is going to benefit at a number of $43.8 million,” Ptacek explains.

In terms of where the Jacksonville School District stands on the issue of the potential wind farm, Ptacek says District 117 has been, and will remain, neutral on the issue.

“I feel the school district should only be taking a stance on any issue that has a direct impact on the schools. The other political issues people are having when it comes to the environmental impact, etc., I as Superintendent of the school district should not be making any statements on those issues. So we are absolutely neutral on this issues and we will just see how it plays out, but I just felt that I needed to clarify any perception people in the community might have that this would be viewed as a windfall for the school district,” says Ptacek.

District 117 is not the only local school district to become involved with Lincoln Land Wind. Last week, Franklin Community Unit School District #1 held a meeting in which it passed a resolution stating its support specifically for the financial improvements projected as a result of this potential project.