BOURBON COUNTY, Kan. – Kimberly Simons spends her days tending to cows and horses on her quite Bourbon County farm.
“This is the life we love,” says Simons.
But it’s a life she’s afraid could change forever if a wind farm project in the county moves forward.
“If I wanted something that was going to make noise, or blinking lights or shadows, I wouldn’t live in the country,” says Simons.
Apex Clean Energy is currently in talks with Bourbon County and Crawford County for the Jayhawk wind project.
If it moves forward, it would place wind turbines in southwest Bourbon County and Northwest Crawford County that are between 500 and 600 feet tall that are expected to generate 195 megawatts of energy.
The company estimates 80 percent of the turbines would be in Bourbon County.
Officials in Bourbon County say they’ve been discussing the project with Apex for about four months.
“The pros and cons have been weighed, and just a lot of research. We reached out to the Kansas Health Institute to see what kind of health impact it may have on our quality of life, economic impacts,” says Bourbon County Economic Development Director Jody Hoener. “The reports we were able to gather say wind turbines do not show to have a negative health impact. It has shown to provide a lot of economic benefit to communities.”
Hoener says they still have to get a road use agreement and payment in lieu of taxes agreement signed before anything moves forward.
She also says the PILOT agreement will require Apex to pay the county more than 260-thousand dollars a year for the next ten years, instead of paying property taxes.
“”We’ll be able to use that money to inject value into the community so that we can create sustainable long term value,” says Hoener.
Apex Clean Energy also developed the Neosho Ridge Wind Project in Neosho County.
A project that brought pushback from residents.
Helen Humphreys, Public Engagement Manager with Apex, tells us in a phone interview:
“We are trying to provide as much information to the public as we can, at a much earlier stage in development. A good example is the community forum we hosted in October that brought together experts in the wind industry that could answer questions,” says Humphreys.
She says invitations to that meeting were sent to residents that live a mile around the proposed footprint.
But Simons says they haven’t been as transparent as she would like.
“I feel like all of Bourbon County should have been notified,” says Simons.
Simons says she’s concerned about health impacts because of lost sleep and decreased property values.
She’s also concerned for her neighbors that have signed lease agreements because of litigation in Allen County over alleged payment issues during construction at the Prairie Queen wind farm.
“The wind turbine company didn’t pay the contractors, so then it falls back on the farmers. And that’s horrible. Who’s to say that won’t happen here?” says Simons.
So now, she’s planning a community meeting, so everyone can make their voices heard.
“The positive side needs to be out and the negative side needs to be out. I want everybody to do their own research and see where they stand on it,” says Simons. “And I do hope the commissioners will listen to everybody.”
Simons community meeting is scheduled for January 9th at 6:30 pm at the Roadway Inn.
Officials in Fort Scott are also planning a community meeting, which will be held at the county courthouse at 6 pm on January 14th.
Commissioner Jeremy Johnson in Crawford County says discussions with Apex haven’t started yet.
Apex hopes to start construction on the project sometime in the fall of 2020.
Jayhawk wind website: http://www.jayhawkwind.com/about_jayhawk
Apex has released an economic impact report, which can be found below.
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