CLINTON – It will be another six weeks before the DeWitt County Board will make a decision on the county’s first proposed wind farm.
Citing issues with being unable to meet as a group, the board voted 6-5 to postpone a decision until July 14.
Seven of the 12 board members, including board Chairman Dave Newberg were present in the County Board room along with County Clerk Dana Smith, County Administrator Dee Dee Rentmeister and State’s Attorney Dan Markwell. Four others were home and one board member, Cole Ritter, was not in attendance.
“So you have a quorum sitting at the boardroom, but the rest of us are all sitting at home,” said board member Melonie Tilley, who joined the meeting via a video link, as did more than 275 residents and officials from Tradewind Energy, the developers of Alta Farms II.
“I guess I don’t understand how that can be such a fair meeting for those of us following from home,” Tilley said. “I think we all need to be in the boardroom at the same time.
“At least the board members should be in the boardroom so we know exactly what everybody is doing. We would know exactly what papers are being passed around. We don’t have a clue, sitting here, what is going on with you guys.”
Board member Terry Ferguson, who was in the board room, agreed.
“I have said all along that I think that a meeting of this magnitude when all of the board members on the agenda can speak,” he said. “We are now in Phase 3 of the governor’s executive order and we are scheduled to go into Phase 4 later this month, and according to the governor’s rule, we could have 50 people in a meeting then.”
In September 2018, Tradewind Energy submitted a special-use permit application to the county, but the County Board voted against it in April 2019. Board members denied the application for a variety of reasons, saying it wasn’t complete and left too many unanswered questions.
Tradewind Energy revamped the application and resubmitted it last year.
Both officials with Tradewind Energy and opponents of the wind farm also have expressed a desire to have all participants in one room.
Board member Nate Ennis said he also wanted to be in the room when the vote was held.
“My understanding of a virtual meeting is that the chairman was present in the boardroom and the rest of us were virtual,” he said. “Being that our board is more than 10 people. If we all showed up, how would the meeting be conducted then? Do I have to ask permission to be in the boardroom? I am duly elected just like everyone else is and I can’t be in the boardroom for this meeting.”
“I am not so sure that doesn’t violate some of our rights as board members of not being present,” Tilley added. “I feel like it has been taken away from me by not being in the boardroom when others are able to be there.”
Board Member Lance Reece said he was of the understanding that if there were more than 10 people, some of the board members would have to be in a different room.
“I don’t believe it was a requirement to ask permission to show up,” he said.
“That would be no different than being at home,” Tilley argued. “You still aren’t there to see what the other members are doing. And who do you choose to go into a different room?”
The board debated the issue for more than 45 minutes before calling for a vote, but several, including Reece, wanted to ensure the vote is taken in July.
“Come hell or high water,” he said.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be $200 million and $250 million and is projected to add 66 turbines up to 599 feet tall in southwestern DeWitt County.
Tradewind began development of the project in 2007 by initiating a turbine site leasing campaign and went into full development in 2016.
The application for a special-use permit has been updated since the last one failed.
In submitting the plan, Tradewind officials said the second permit included nearly a year’s worth of additional development activities such as engineering work on the wind farm design and public road improvements, final geotechnical work and landowner approval of the site plan.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding