WILLARD – After much research, debate and hearing heated discussions from the community, the Willard City School board voted to remain neutral regarding wind turbines coming to the area.
During the February board meeting the decision passed with a 3-2 vote in favor of the board not having an opinion – either for or against – on the wind turbines and the monetary benefits the school could receive should they be erected.
Board members Rod Cok and Rick Willoughby voted against the neutrality.
No further discussion took place during the meeting.
District superintendent Jeff Ritz declined to comment on what he felt would be best for the schools.
During a presentation at January’s board meeting, APEX leader Sarah Moser was invited to discuss some facts about the project with the board. Initially the board had planned to make a decision during that meeting – indicating if it though the wind farm project would benefit the district. However, after hearing from the community, it was invited to receive “unbiased education” on the issue at a pro-wind vs. anti-wind” public debate on Feb 19 Tiffin University. The debate, however, was canceled.
Moser told the board there’s “a lot of fear mongering out there” attempting to sway the Willard school board’s vote on a decision involving what one opposer called “monster turbines” coming to the area.
Numerous community members also showed up to that meeting and spoke during the public participation section, asking the board to remain neutral on the matter.
“I’m asking that you remain neutral,” one Willard man said. “Bellevue officially removed their support (of the wind turbine project). They will remain neutral. Seneca (East Local Schools) has intervened. Monroeville remains neutral. Your focus should be on the school and the students, not to endorse political issues one way or another.”
Many people echoed that statement, including one woman who asked the board to consider how their endorsement or lack thereof could affect the local voters. She said some make voting decisions based on what “community leaders” say are best instead of doing the research themselves. The woman said this places an extra weight of responsibility on the board to refrain from getting involved in what she called political affairs.
“Why would the school support something that affects the entire district?” she said. “Staying neutral would be best so people can vote how they want, so they can decide what’s best for themselves.”
Other complaints cited the board’s lack of consideration for the environmental and aesthetic effects the turbines could have on the surrounding areas.
“It’s not a political issue, but it’s become one,” the APEX representative said. “I don’t know when renewable energy became a political issue, but it’s being portrayed as one now. … If it’s best best for your community to stay neutral, stay neutral. There’s a lot of fear mongering out there. You need to do what’s best for your community.”
Board member Marsha Danhoff said the board wasn’t viewing their decision as a political one, but simply indicating if the district would benefit from the project.
No further discussion on the issue is anticipated at future meetings.