KEMPTON – The townships in the footprint of the Kelly Creek Wind Farm have sent a final counteroffer to the wind farm’s developer to settle a long-standing dispute over the adequacy of road repairs made following the project’s construction.
Rogers Township in northern Ford County and Norton Township in southwestern Kankakee County have been working to resolve the situation since shortly after the 92-turbine, 184-megawatt wind farm was put into commercial operation by EDF Renewables in December 2016.
The company based in San Diego, Calif., has avoided litigation thus far over what the townships claim is the firm’s failure to adequately repair roads that were used in building the wind farm.
Ford County Highway Engineer Greg Perkinson said Monday, however, that a settlement finally appears imminent. Perkinson said a final counteroffer was sent by the townships to the firm about a week and a half ago, and they were expecting a response soon.
If the settlement is accepted, the firm would provide the funds for the two townships to hire contractors to do the necessary work, which would include reducing the steepness of the slopes on the edges of roads and creating smoother transitions from roads to driveways and field entrances.
The steepness of the slopes is the “big” issue, Perkinson said, noting they exceed the Illinois Department of Transportation’s maximum standard of “3 feet over by 1 foot down.”
Perkinson noted that the firm has already given Ford County the funds to make adequate repairs to county-maintained roads. The repair of the townships’ roads still remains unresolved, however.
“This has been an issue for a couple of years,” Perkinson said, “but I guess (the developer has) been hesitant to do it themselves.”
The townships are having to negotiate a settlement with EDF Renewables because of their inability to access any of the $2.76 million the firm had placed into an escrow account to be used toward road and bridge repairs in the event of a dispute.
As part of a road-use agreement the firm entered into with the county and townships, the funds held in escrow were to be accessible through the end of a two-year warranty period that was to begin when the wind farm was completed. However, Perkinson said the company ended up requiring the townships to pay for the repairs themselves and then to ask to be reimbursed.
“They said we have to spend the money and request reimbursement, and then they have the option to deny our reimbursement based on what they think we should have done,” Perkinson told the county board’s zoning committee last week.
The uncertainty of being reimbursed is one issue. But another issue is that the townships do not have the funds to pay for the work up-front, Perkinson said.
“We can’t spend $2 million out of a township account that doesn’t have any money in it,” Perkinson said.
The proposed settlement with EDF Renewables would give back those escrow funds to the company in return for the company writing a check to the townships to be used for the necessary work.
Perkinson warned county board members during last week’s zoning committee meeting to take note of the existing problems in accessing escrow funds as the board continues to finalize a number of changes to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms.
“Make sure you know how you’re going to access (the funds),” Perkinson said, “because it’s not working at the Kelly Creek Wind Farm.”
The zoning committee met for two hours last Thursday to review evidence presented at a November public hearing about the proposed ordinance changes. It is expected that a final version of the revamped ordinance may be ready for approval by the county board in the next couple months.
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