NEOSHO COUNTY, Kan. – The Neosho County, Kansas has been discussing a wind farm proect for more than a year.
During that time, there’s been a lot of residents who have voiced their concern over safety and how close the turbines would be to their properties.
But, there’s also been a lot of support for the project from residents who are excited about the economic boost it could bring.
The process has also been slowed down because two commissioners have resigned since March.
Now, two new commissioners have been appointed by Governor Laura Kelly – one bing appointed in April, and the other at the end of May.
On Thursday June 6th, in a two to one vote, the Neosho County commission voted to move forward with the wind farm project.
Commissioner Paul Westhoff – who’s been on the commission for four and a half years and oversees the district the project will be in – voted against the project and didn’t sign the agreement.. saying there were things in the project agreement he didn’t like, as well as concerns he has for safety.
Paul Westhoff, Neosho County Commissioner:”I’m worried about ice throw, wildlife, ya know noise, infrasound. I’ve got a pickup load of information at home about that stuff that we’ve gotten over the months that will tell you that. And there’s studies on both sides. I just feel like I cannot trust Apex.”
Westhoff says he didn’t get the final draft of the agreement until right before Thursday night’s meeting – something commissioner David Orr also admits.
Westhoff thinks a decision should have been pushed back, especially since the other commissioners have only been seated for a few weeks.
Westhoff:”That’s why I brought up a moratorium, which only puts the breaks on he thing till September, and let them get a little more educated. I felt like that was needed.. but it was not seconded.. and I knew then it was a done deal.”
Commissioner David Orr was sworn in April 10th, and Gail Klaassen was sworn in May 23rd.
They both voted for the project.. saying it’s one of the best wind farm deals for an un zoned county in the state.
David Orr, Neosho County Commissioner:”The only thing we could do is really delegate to them what price we would charge to use those roads. We did not have the right to stop this company from doing economic development in Neosho county. We couldn’t come in after the fact and say, hey, we want to zone and keep you out.”
Klaassen:”I’m happy with what we have. I know that the opponents want more, but I think we fought to get what we could and make people safe.”
Orr also says the decision had to be made before Apex decided to sue the county for pushing the project back for so long.. and was afraid Liberty Utilities Empire would change their decision to buy the wind farm.
Orr:”The message came down to us that they needed to purchase the turbines, and if they couldn’t purchase them by the tenth, they would pull out from Apex, and we would have been left with Apex only. I really was never really on the bandwagon with Apex, as much as it was when I found out Empire was gonna be the buyer.”
Klaassen says Liberty Utilities is supposed to buy the project from Apex after construction is complete.
Neither Orr or Klaassen could say definitively that there was a written agreement between Apex and Libery Utilities to buy the wind farm.
Now that the decision has been made, Westhoff says he’s gonna work with the commission to make the most of it.
Westhoff:”I want what’s best for the county. Hope to God everything works out right.”
Apex plans to start road construction in August.
According to agreements obtained by KOAM – there will be 136 turbines built, that can be up to 700 feet tall.
The turbines will have to emit less than 48 decibels of sound from the exterior point of a non participating home, and can’t create shadow flicker on a non participating residence for more than a cumulative 45 hours per year.
The turbines will have to be set back 1460 feet from a non participating home, and 1025 feet from a non participating property line.
Per the contribution agreement, Apex has to make a one time payment to the county 45 days after issuing a Notice to Proceed to the engeneering and procurement contractor.
That payment will go toward a few different areas in the county, but adds up to 1.5 million.
The entirety of the four agreements are attached below.