PIERSON TOWNSHIP – As their young daughter June ran around the room and pointed at wind turbine posters, Dave and Mary Tibbe of Pierson Township followed close behind while gathering information about a proposed project for their community.
The Tibbes were among many community members present at a busy open house event hosted by Apex Clean Energy on Tuesday evening at Pierson Township Hall. Apex continues to work on its proposed Montcalm Wind project currently focused on placing an estimated 75 turbines (each one at least 600 feet tall) in nine townships in Montcalm County (Belvidere, Cato, Douglass, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pierson, Pine, Sidney and Winfield townships).
Dave Tibbe said he learned about the proposal when an Apex representative visited his home (the Tibbes lease out farmland in Pierson Township). Dave is still doing research before deciding whether to sign with Apex, but he thinks the project could be good for the community.
“The tax revenue and the payments to the landowners and farm owners, it’s a stable source of income from what I can tell,” he said. “The townships could use the additional tax revenue as well. I haven’t made my mind up yet. I’m just here to look around and talk to people.”
Steven and Jeanne Poulsen of Maple Valley Township lease out about 100 acres of farmland and they have already signed a property lease with Apex. The Poulsens were present Tuesday and Jeanne assisted Apex’s Public Engagement Organizer Mel Christensen in welcoming people at the door.
“I think it’s a good thing because our county isn’t rich and we could use the money for our schools,” Jeanne said. “It’s the future, wind is part of the future of electricity. We’ve got to think about our children. We need to do more than just one thing – wind, solar, I agree with it all.”
Don Schurr, who retired as president of Greater Gratiot Development in 2017, was present to answer questions from people regarding how turbines have affected Gratiot County (which is currently home to 345 turbines). Schurr said since construction began on Gratiot County’s wind farms in 2012, $57.37 million has been generated in additional tax revenue in the past nine years, including $8.3 million in 2020 alone.
“Apex asked me if I would help them come on board part-time so that if somebody from Montcalm County had a question regarding how did you do it, what are the benefits, what did you learn from being in a Michigan rural area – I said yeah, I can help you,” he said. “I had already taken many calls from folks in Montcalm over the years asking about how it happened (in Gratiot County). The community decision in Gratiot was collectively, let’s go for it. It is by the far the largest economic development, most broad benefit that I can imagine for a rural community.”
Pierson Township Supervisor Dan Buyze was also present Tuesday to continue learning about the proposal.
“In order to get as much information as possible on the subject, I have visited a windmill,” Buyze said. “I wanted to see firsthand what kind of turnout we had tonight. I wanted to make sure that our guests who are renting our hall are treated with respect and dignity.
“We have the sheriffs here to help reiterate that,” he added.
Buyze was referring to Montcalm County sheriff’s deputies Mike Kotenko and Brian Fox, both of whom were requested to attend by Apex, according to Montcalm County Sheriff Mike Williams.
“Apex requested us to be at all the open houses they are hosting,” Williams told the Daily News on Wednesday. “Same as the townships – if we’re requested to be there and there’s not an emergency in progress, we’ll attend in a keep-the-peace capacity.”
As people came and went from the open house, another group gathered in the parking lot of Pierson Township Hall on Cannonsville Road to wave signs reading “2 Tall, 2 Close, 2 Loud” and “Big Wind Go Home” at passing motorists.
Protestors against Apex’s proposal included Mike and Robin Poulsen (the brother and sister-in-law of Steven and Jeanne Poulsen who were helping out inside at the open house).
“I can’t change their minds because they’ve already signed, but I want to make sure there’s not going to be any more (lease-signers) than we already have,” Robin said. “I want to get the point across that these turbines are not safe for our health or welfare – nothing.”
“Our main goal is to educate them (people attending the open house) and let them know that there’s another side,” Diane Christensen of Sidney Township said.
“Keep the calm in Montcalm,” added Sherill Houser from Maple Valley Township.
Other protestors included Jeremy and Jessica Kwekel of Cato Township, who put a large banner on display across the road reading “2 Tall, 2 Close, 2 Loud, Not In My Backyard!”
“I’m just supporting from a neighboring township,” Jeremy said.
“Our community’s not for sale,” Jessica declared.
UPCOMING OPEN HOUSES
Apex Clean Energy is hosting additional informational open houses on the subject of their promised Montcalm Wind turbine project (visit montcalmwind.com/events to register to attend any of the open houses):
• 6 to 8 p.m. June 16: Cato and Pine township open house at Flat River Conservation Club, 300 S Greenville Road (M-91) Greenville
• 6 to 8 p.m. June 22: Winfield Township open house at Winfield Township Hall, 12547 Howard City-Edmore Road (M-46), Amble
6 to 8 p.m. July 6: Douglass and Belvidere township open house at Douglass Township Hall, 3521 W. McBride Road Stanton
• 6 to 8 p.m. July 13: Montcalm and Sidney township open house, Ash Building, Montcalm County Fairgrounds, 8784 Peck Road, Greenville
For more information, contact Montcalm Wind via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (989) 787-3029.