ERIE – Neosho County Commissioners named seven members and a facilitator to an advisory committee on wind energy development.
The committee stems from a one-year moratorium passed in September to halt further expansion of wind-generated electricity after approval of the Neosho Ridge Wind project.
District 1 Commissioner Paul Westhoff, whose district covers the most area, named three committee members, while District 2 Commissioner David Orr and District 3 Commissioner Gail Klaassen each named two. The commission named Chanute Regional Development Authority Director Matt Godinez to be facilitator.
Godinez said he would be happy to take the position and thought he would be up to it.
“It is an interesting task to keep everybody on task,” he said.
Westhoff named Shirley Estrada, Julie Johnson and Kelly Coover as his district’s members, while Orr named Darrin Young of Young’s Welding and educator James DeGeer, and Klaassen named Hugo Spieker and Don Gastineau.
The commissioners also heard from two critics of the Neosho Ridge project. Dustie Elsworth, who asked to be part of the agenda, and LeRoy Burk, who spoke impromptu during the public commentary, are both plaintiffs in a federal suit seeking to block Neosho Ridge Wind.
Klaassen said some agenda items Thursday did not provide background information on the presentation and could have been brought as public comment. She said they did not give commissioners a chance to study the issues.
Commissioners have previously discussed a form to request placement on the agenda, and approved the request form 2-1 Thursday evening with Westhoff opposed. Klaassen said even if a request is submitted, it does not mean a topic will be on the agenda.
Elsworth, who the husband of County Clerk Heather Elsworth, said he wanted to reiterate that people in the Neosho Ridge construction area are not being treated fairly. Using research provided by resident Ed Spielbusch, he cited specific paragraphs in the Road Use Agreement with Neosho Ridge developer Apex Clean Energy that he said Apex is not following.
“If we’re doing this, let’s at least follow this agreement,” Elsworth said.
One issue he had was that there have been not written notices of areas that would be fixed, and that the county commission has not approved revisions and changes. He gave weights of tractor-trailers and loads that he said were overweight, and although he did not give specific dates of the overweight infractions, he said he had video of a truck using a bridge that an engineer said should not be used.
Elsworth also that Apex had put up speed limit signs in the area, which only the county had authority to do.
Burk also said residents are being treated unfairly.
“These big trucks, the cranes, are abusing us,” he said.
He described a confrontation with the driver of a larger vehicle, where Burk blocked the road with his pickup. Burk said the other driver was not on a designated route, and Burk refused to move, making the larger vehicle back up for half a mile.
During another discussion topic, Orr said the commission has been so focused on the wind farm issue, it has not dealt with other issues.
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