A Friday county commission meeting to discuss road maintenance issues with Enel Green Power, the company developing Diamond Vista wind farm in the northern section of the county, and talk to Expedition Wind about future development of a wind farm in the southern portion of the county stayed civil despite a packed house.
Commissioners first discussed road damage caused by July storms weeks ago and county engineer Brice Goebel said Enel Green Power did not consider it their responsibility to repair that damage. Commissioners disagreed, since damage caused by rain is to be expected in Kansas.
Project manager Jeff Primer and area construction manager Steve Williams, both representing Enel, said they expected Friday’s meeting to be between them and county officials, not held in public.
“We are not willing to discuss our contractual matters,” Williams said.
Enel does want to find a resolution for the situation.
“We had damage to the roads after the flood,” Williams said.
“Have the catastrophic issues been taken care of?” commission chairman Kent Becker asked.
“We’re not aware of any catastrophic issues,” Williams said. “We have to have an inspection.”
Williams said about half the construction is finished and the company has not completed its punch list for the job.
Becker said he’d gotten a complaint the night before from a resident on the western side of the wind farm.
“You wasn’t here when we made the agreement,” commissioner Randy Dallke said. “That was with someone else and you were to keep that agreement.”
Williams said it is their understanding that road damages not caused by construction are not Enel’s responsibility.
“When we made the agreement, we was told to keep our equipment off the roads,” Dallke said. “That was our understanding.”
Williams said he had driven county roads that were not part of the agreement and decided the roads Enel has maintained are in better condition than roads the county maintains. He also said the wind farm landowners are satisfied with roads.
Commissioner Dianne Novak said she’s known for a long time the roads are in poor condition.
“Mr. Hughes wrote the letter, it was a forceful letter, and there was no response,” Novak said.
Novak also complained about frequent employee turnover with Enel.
“It appears to me that we’re having a communication failure that’s happening somewhere along the line,” Becker said.
Williams suggested doing a road inspection and meeting with Kirkham Michael, the county’s consulting engineer for the wind farm project.
Road superintendent Jesse Hamm said he believes the road maintenance agreement says the inspection is to be done at the end of the project.
“I think we need to get out there and look at the roads and do an inspection with Kirkham Michael and perhaps with Jesse,” Williams said.
County counsel Brad Jantz said he agreed the contract called for an inspection to be done at the end of the project. He added that finding common ground would help move the situation forward.
When commissioners were finished talking with Enel and turned to Expedition officials, two members of an opposition group who have filed a series of lawsuits against the company, county planning and zoning officials, and county commissioners used their cell phones to record the discussion.
CEO Pat Pelstring said Expedition has found watching what happens between the county and Enel instructive.
Continuity and continuing communication are both important, he said, and perhaps it would be a good idea to hold meetings with commissioners.
A road maintenance agreement earlier forged under Doyle Wind Farm permits will be honored, Pelstring said. Expedition purchased a wind farm initiative begun years ago but never developed.
Pelstring said he wants to satisfy the county and its constituents.
“The words you said, we sat in this same room and heard a year and a half ago,” Dallke said in reference to the Diamond Vista project.
Pelstring said the worst thing that could be done is to make the opening and the closing of the project painful to both the wind farm and the county.
Jantz told commissioners he’d spoken with attorneys for Expedition, who want to draw up a contract proposal for review.
“We’d like to be in a position that you can be comfortable with,” Pelstring said.