Newton County Commissioners choose which grant project to go with, discuss solar and wind energy zoning
With only one open slot to apply for an Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) grant, the Newton County Commissioners had to choose between two projects to move forward with this year.
Edwin Buswell of the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission (KIRPC) informed the commissioners at their March 4 meeting that his office has been approached by both the Newton County Community Services and the Lincoln Township Fire Department about applying for the first round of this year’s OCRA grants.
Buswell explained that a county can only have three OCRA grants out at a time and Newton County already has two of those grants open for at least another year. He also went on to state that the project that is not chosen for this first round would probably have to wait until 2020 to apply.
Newton County Community Services has its matching funds already in place for the grant that would be used to build its new building, while the Lincoln Township Fire Department is hoping to use the grant to go toward a new $5 million firehouse.
When asked where the Lincoln Township Fire Department would get the rest of the money for the firehouse, Carl Fox said they would be seeking out a loan of around $4 million from the county.
“This is my personal opinion, but I think you (speaking to Fox) have a slim chance of getting a $4 million loan. That would be a tough sell for a county our size.”
Commissioner Tim Drenth said that Newton County Community Services has all of its ducks in a row right now and the board voted to authorize Buswell to move along with that project.
In other news from the commissioners’ meeting, County Attorney Pat Ryan said that the county has been receiving a lot more interest as a possible location for solar energy development. He suggested that the commissioners consider discussing a change to the county’s ordinance to promote and enforce solar projects.
Commissioner Kyle Conrad added that while a discussion on solar energy is taking place maybe the county should have one on wind energy as well.
“I am personally not for wind projects,” said Conrad. He went on to suggest maybe the county ‘s zoning should make it known that wind turbine projects would not be allowed.
“Newton County’s zoning ordinance for wind turbines are already very restrictive,” answered Ryan. “I understand the concerns and I share a lot of them. However, the county should hear all proposals before saying no. There is definitely strong interest to put them here.”
Ryan went on to say that the northern part of the county will see some hard times in the future because the county’s efforts on economic developments up there have not succeeded.
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