It reads as a cautionary tale.
Or someone with an agenda.
In a December letter to a newspaper in Gainesville, Texas, Don Vogel wrote about a proposed wind farm in Texas that, if approved, would be developed by the same company that owns the Prairie Queen Wind Farm in northern Allen County.
“Like waking from a bad dream … the decent folk of the farming community near Iola were shaken by news of legal action,” Vogel wrote. “A mechanics lien to the tune of nearly $1.8 million had been placed on the properties that were leased to EDP’s Prairie Queen wind project.”
The lien, Vogel said, essentially prevents the landowners from selling their property without first satisfying the $1.8 million debt. “These farmers now do not have a clean title to their land!” he wrote.
Vogel’s letter has subsequently been shared locally through social media. One reader brought the letter to the Register’s newspaper office as well.
So are local landowners on the hook for a $1.8 million bill?
Not quite, although attempting to sell land with a lien on it could be problematic.
A subsequent review of the more than 200 mechanics liens filed over the past year in Allen County District Court – including the one referenced by Vogel – show a byproduct of a multimillion-dollar construction project, and how contractors take steps to ensure they are being paid.
The details in the lien listed in Vogel’s letter match up with a filing by Nelson Quarries, based in Allen County, against Black & McDonald, the contractor in charge of construction of the Prairie Queen wind farm for EDP Renewables.
The specifics of the lien also offer a bit more perspective.
As of Nov. 20, Black & McDonald still owed $1,788.763.16, according to the lien filing, but also has paid the Iola-based company more than $5.9 million.
“Liens are often a necessary step in resolving disputes between contractors and subcontractors during construction projects,” explained Blair Matocha, a spokeswoman for EDP. “Unpaid contractors and subcontractors must file a lien within a strict deadline or they risk losing the ability to resolve their dispute in court. If a contractor or subcontractor thinks they have not been adequately paid for work performed, they will almost certainly file before the deadline passes.
“Regarding EDP Renewables’ Prairie Queen Wind Farm, it is EDP Renewables’ contractor Black & McDonald that is in dispute with several of its subcontractors,” Matocha continued. “The dispute is solely between Black & McDonald and its subcontractors – not EDP Renewables or the Prairie Queen Wind Farm.
“Our landowners are our partners and we provide multiple layers of protection to ensure our landowners are not negatively affected by mechanics liens,” Matocha said. “A lease with Prairie Queen Wind Farm requires that we keep our landowners’ property free and clear of all liens.”
EDP officials declined to comment for the article.
ONE SUCH landowner, who asked not to be identified, but whose property is among those listed in the mechanics lien filings, said there is no cause for concern, “but I am keeping track of things. I know that once these things get into the legal system, it can take a while to get them resolved.”
The landowner continues to support the wind farm, and EDP. “They’ve been great to work with.”
EDP Renewables pays Allen County $250,000 a year payment in lieu of taxes.
WHILE there have been scores of mechanics liens filed, only two companies have subsequently filed suit seeking restitution.
RES Systems LLC, based in Delaware, filed a $2,001,406.48 against Black and McDonald in October.
Also in October, Buckner Heavylift Cranes LLC, based in North Carolina, filed suit seeking $5.9 million against Black and McDonald.
The aforementioned landowner agrees unpaid bills to subcontractors, particularly local ones, have given the project a black eye.
“My concern is for the local companies that went above and beyond, and now they’re struggling to get paid,” the landowner said. “I’m not sure how many of them can afford to take such a hit.”
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