ERIE – The Neosho Ridge Wind project was once again a point of contention at Thursday evening’s Neosho County Commission meeting.
Apex Clean Energy, the company that is building the wind farm in the southern part of the county, was represented by on-site project manager Jason Martinson. He asked the commission for permission to add additional roads to the approved road use agreement. Martinson said it was an addition of approximately nine miles of road, but engineer Tanner Yost calculated that it was closer to 13 or 14 miles based on the map presented by Martinson.
Commissioner David Orr wanted to ensure that the additional roads would get the same treatment that the roads covered under the current agreement. Martinson assured him that was the plan. Discussion ensued about what precisely that entailed – like how much rock each road would receive. Orr was under the assumption that there was a defined amount that would be used.
“That is not the case,” Martinson said. “It depends on the condition of the road. Sometimes they receive two inches of gravel, sometimes four inches, sometimes the roads only require grooming.”
Orr ultimately offered to extend the road use agreement if Apex agreed to pay $50,000 for the changes. Commissioner Paul Westhoff agreed that was generous. Martinson said he did not have the authority to agree to the funds request, but excused himself to make a phone call while the meeting went to the public comment portion.
The first speaker, referred to as Mr. Cooper, was concerned about Apex trucks going over the new bridge on Harper Road. Yost explained that his firm did studies to ensure that the bridge would hold the loads. Martinson returned to the meeting and confirmed to the gentleman that there would not be heavy loads going across that bridge, making it a moot point. Cooper was also concerned about the traffic on Jackson Road and how the road would be maintained while construction was going on.
“Jackson Road is easily the busiest gravel road in this county,” he said.
Martinson explained it was a direct route to where Apex was working and that they maintain roads all throughout construction and make repairs afterwards.
Dusty Elsworth also spoke about the construction traffic stemming from the wind farm construction, accusing Apex of not following the road use agreement. He cautioned commissioners on allowing them more usage.
“I don’t want them on Jackson Road dealing with what we’re dealing with,” he said.
Conversely, another gentleman complimented Apex regarding construction traffic and the work the company had done on his road.
“Maybe I’m just luckier than Dusty, but they’ve been nothing but polite and courteous to me,” he said.
Westhoff brought up complaints from constituents regarding blasting while discussing the roads, with Elsworth agreeing that the blasts were disturbing.
Ultimately Martinson was able to agree to the $50,000 addendum to the road use agreement for the additional roads. Orr made the motion to approve the change and Commission Chair Gail Klaassen seconded. Westhoff cast the lone dissenting vote for the addendum.
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