County residents strongly oppose NextEra wind farm
Credit: By Jo Anne Busing | Akron News-Reporter | March 25, 2020 | www.akronnewsreporter.com ~~
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Washington County Commissioners held their regular meeting Tuesday, March 17 with an audience of almost 30 people present. County Administrator Misty Peterson gave the invocation, followed by the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
Assistant Administrator Denise Chavez presented the planning and zoning report. The first item was a building permit for Ryan Koch for a storage shed on his property and this was approved by the commissioners. Next, a right of way for Y-W Electric was discussed. The commissioners needed more information, so they tabled this matter. A special permit request was made by Rick Bailey for Viaero for them to build an industrial tower on property they own in Cope. Resolution 61-2020 was approved for the construction of the tower.
Fred Raish, a member of the Planning and Zoning Committee, asked for a moratorium on a permit for the installation of transmission lines for NextEra, who wants to put in a windmill farm near Fleming. The lines would go through several properties in the northern part of the county. The committee wanted more time to research and asked for a moratorium of at least six months. During a break, the county called their attorney and found a moratorium can be as long as the county wants it to be.
During public comment, several of the audience who attended, spoke to the commissioners. Jason Glenn spoke about the windmill farm and asked for a moratorium of at least one year. Glenn said NextEra has been saying they have talked to their neighbors and they have signed, and that if they don’t sign they will put the lines up in the county right of way and they won’t be compensated and other scare tactics to get them to sign. He said they only have landowners signed up for three and a half miles of a 112 mile strip where they want the lines to go. Glenn said NextEra told them they can’t use eminent domain. When they presented a contract from NextEra they were told not to sign the contract ever. Glenn also said the governor is pushing this renewable energy for the state and it won’t work in the rural areas. Glenn said they are also trying to get a message to the governor that their land is important to them and what they do for a living is very important.
Rhonda Kuntz spoke next. Kuntz said they have told NextEra they do not ever want any poles on their land, especially since the lines would be very close to their home. They were also told by counsel not to sign their contract. They have been farming for many generations and want to leave their land to their children and grandchildren, without a lot of extra poles on it.
“NextEra doesn’t realize that as neighbors we talk to each other and we know how everyone feels about this and what has been done and what has not been done,” Kuntz said.
Dena Palser said these poles are not wanted on their land and it is not one of their community’s goals. They care about the community identity, growth and development and viability.
Palser said, “As commissioners, you represent the citizens of the county and we want you to protect our property rights. We have an opportunity and a potential to send a message to the governor about how we feel about this issue.”
Rodney Strand spoke on behalf of his concerned neighbors, saying his land is not in the line of the lines, but that NextEra has talked to him about the lines. Jonell Mollohan said they have told NextEra several times, very emphatically, that they do not want any lines on their property. NextEra had told them that all their neighbors had signed and they had found out this was not true.
Tony Gerk, who is from Logan County, said he lives a short way from the proposed windmill farm. Gerk said when you research rules and regulations for wind farms, there is one page, while oil and gas have over 10 pages. He thinks wind farms should have as many rules and regulations as oil and gas and that this needs to be researched and studies further, before any more farms are allowed.
Jaimee Mollohan said it is the commissioners’ job to protect their constituents and she reiterated what everybody else had said.
Taylor Harms said wind farms have an electromagnetic field and it interferes with GPS. She also said that Logan County had the most lightning strikes in the state last year and believes the wind farms have something to do with that. Harms felt there should be more studies to see what else might be affected by these giant windmills.
Sally Strand asked the commissioners if they have discussed with the landfill what they might do with the propellers from a wind farm. The farmer, whose land has a tower on it, is responsible for disposing of the windmill once they shut down the farm. This means the propellers, tower and the transmission lines and anything else associated with the windmill.
Jerry Patterson, owner of the Otis Telegraph, said the county has done a good job to update their web page, but he asked if that when they post new information, they just hit another button and send that to the two newspapers in the county.
No one else decided to speak, but they were all present for the same reason: to have a moratorium put on the wind farm question. The commissioners took no further action and will discuss this more with the county attorney before they take any action. They are trying to get answers to several questions they have asked the attorney.
Scott Porteus of Y-W Electric talked to the commissioners about the right of way that was tabled. The matter is still tabled and may be discussed at their next meeting.
Sheriff Jon Stivers and Undersheriff Robbie Furrow presented some work they want to do at the Justice Center. They have been asked by other jails to have a video conference room where they can do trainings, give lessons to prisoners, etc. They have a room that was used for visitation, but said they have no visitations now and the room has been used as a storage room. They want to take out a door that was not secure and brick up that area. They have inmates who can do most of the work, but would have to get someone to brick up the wall. The other work, such as putting up drywall, painting, putting in carpet squares, etc. could be done by others at the center. They wanted permission from the commissioners to go ahead with this project and the commissioners approved this.
The capital purchase of a used van to be used as a transport van was discussed. They will trade in an older van and can take the cage out of the old van and put it the used van they want to buy. The commissioners approved the purchase of a used van to be used as a transport van in the amount of $16,900. The van will be purchased from TransWest in Sterling. The commissioners then approved the consent agenda.
Emergency Manager Bryant McCall and Misty Peterson presented their plan for the courthouse for coronavirus. The courthouse is closed to the public now. They are going to follow the Health Department’s recommendations. If one person who works at the courthouse is confirmed to have the virus, they will close for two days and clean. If a second person is said to have the virus the same procedure will be followed. If they have a third case, the courthouse will be closed for two weeks. They are going to work on the plan and present it to the commissioners next week to get it approved. McCall said with all the state has closed down, our county is going to feel the ramifications for a long time and he is very worried about the small businesses who are being affected by all the closures and all the new rules that have been placed on restaurants.
Peterson presented a contract for Hottinger Excavating for a four inch concrete pad that will go in front of the ticket booth at the fairgrounds for $5,775, which was approved. Resolution 60-2020 will allow the director of the Department of Human Services to approve up to $500 for families who might be talking to the department. Only the director can make these decisions.
Peterson also showed the contracts for entertainment at the fair, but nothing was signed and nothing will be announced until after the contracts have been signed by both the county and the entertainment. The commissioners then gave Peterson permission to sign any contracts or paperwork that is needed for the RF systems used in the courthouse. The commissioners went ahead and signed the contract with A-1 Chip Seal for the chip seal work they will be doing in the southern part of the county. They agreed that no performance bond will be required.
The last item was the problem with the heating contractor for Pioneer Haven. The residents have been without reliable heat all winter. Space heaters were provided to all residents, but it has still been cold for them. Quad County Plumbing replaced the pumps with pumps for residential places instead of commercial spaces. They have said the piping is too small and they have offered to put in a storage tank to help the problem. They have also talked about Wern Air replacing the pumps. Commissioner Willeke said Quad County should have to repair the problem, as they did the original work. They have said the cost of the storage tank would be $3,300 and there would be no charge for the labor.
Commissioner Willeke made a motion to approve the work being done by Quad County and for the purchase of the storage tank, but that they would not be paid until the repair work is shown to have solves the problem. The other commissioners approved and hopefully by next week, this work will have been done.
The commissioners then adjourned the meeting. As stated, the courthouse is closed to the public. If you would like to make a comment or just listen to the meeting, call 970-345-1298, PIN 1234.
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