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Board hears from wind power dissenter

The Piatt County board heard from its first wind energy dissenter at the board’s monthly meeting on Oct. 9.

Rural Mansfield resident Gary Kambic said he is opposed to a proposed northern Piatt County project, citing possible problems due to light flicker caused by the motion of the blades, the damage concrete bases cause to valuable farmland, noise, and the altered view of the rural landscape he moved to 20 years ago.

“Your decisions concerning these wind turbines will affect all of us that have to live near these massively tall towers, 500 and 600 feet tall. Picture a 50- to 60-story building on the prairie, multiplied 120 times, towering over our homes and farms,” said Kambic, representing SavePiattCounty.org.

“If you owned land and lived in the impact zone of this proposal, would you and your family want to live near these disgusting towers?” he added.

Apex Clean Energy announced the Goose Creek Wind Project earlier this year, proposing up to 120 wind turbines in Goose Creek, Sangamon and Blue Ridge Townships, generating about 300 Megawatts of energy.

Apex has yet to apply for required county permits, and a spokesman said the firm would likely not file permits for turbines until at least 2021.

“There are many aspects of project design that need to be finalized before permit application, so throughout the process of development, we’re having open conversations with board members and community members about the project. We know these conversations are important because our permit application likely won’t be filed until 2021 or 2022 depending on numerous factors, some outside of our control, so we want to make sure there’s an ongoing, productive dialogue between now and then,” said Max Jabrixio, the Apex Clean Energy public engagement manager.

Apex estimates the project would provide an estimated $65 million in tax revenue to county governments over 30 years, about $40 million of which would go to the Blue Ridge, DeLand-Weldon and Monticello school districts.

Special meeting for budget

A tentative county budget will wait until later this month, said County Board Chairman Ray Spencer. A finance committee meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, where discussions will continue on the fiscal document for the 2020 budget year.

A special county board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 22 to approve a preliminary budget, with final approval likely on Nov. 13.

At the start of budget talks during the summer, the county found itself about $1.1 million in the red for the year that starts on Dec. 1. Adjustments have whittled at that total some, with more expected before the document reaches the full board.

The county seems to be doing better financially in 2019 than the previous year, one that saw fund balances drop by about $1 million to $2.3 million. On Sept. 1 that total was $2.16 million, and an influx of property taxes boosted it to $3.16 million on Oct. 1, according to figures provided to the board by County Treasurer Debbie Marshall.

The county also has $960,000 invested, which is $100,000 more than the start of the current fiscal year.

Business booming at PCMHC

Piatt County Mental Health Center Director Tony Kirkman said his agency is keeping busy in 2019. He said the department is providing developmental services to an average of 100 different people each month. On the mental health side, Kirkman reported an average of 19 new clients each month this year.

In other action, the board:

–heard the parking lot project at the mental health center and Piattran could actually get underway this year after getting final IDOT approval. There was concern it may have to wait until next spring;

–was told by new 9-1-1 Director Tim Furman that he is “settling in” after taking on those duties on Sept. 26; and

–re-appointed Dan Larson to the zoning board of appeals.