DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – The Douglass Township supervisor adjourned Wednesday’s meeting after multiple audience members refused to comply with his requests for order.
The action came a little more than one hour into the Douglass Township Board meeting amid public comment. Multiple other people had spoken without being interrupted – and then Apex Clean Energy Senior Development Manager Albert Jongewaard took the floor.
Jongewaard thanked Planning Commission Secretary Cindy Shick for speaking with him recently and he encouraged others in the audience to do the same, instead of protesting outside Apex’s community open houses.
“If you can have a conversation with somebody you might just find that there’s misunderstandings or that maybe you have something in common and maybe – hey maybe, just maybe – some of the stuff that we read in the deep dark corners of the internet aren’t all true,” Jongewaard said. “Take a break from the picket line, be brave, come on inside and talk to us for a moment. There’s a lot of areas in this county where we’re not signing ground, where we’re not looking to put turbines.”
As Jongewaard then began to address property values in relation to wind turbines, he was interrupted by Jeremy Kwekel of Cato Township who had already had a turn speaking. Kwekel declared that Jongewaard’s three minutes were up and began speaking again himself.
“Hey, sit down,” Supervisor Terry Anderson said. “Sit down! Sit down! You know what? I gave Cindy (Shick) a lot of time (to speak earlier in the meeting) and I’m giving him (Jongewaard) some too. When it’s your turn you can talk.”
Jongewaard had sat down by this point and as Anderson attempted to ask whether anyone else wanted to speak, he was repeatedly interrupted.
“Where were you in 2017 with your open houses instead of sneaking around and trying to get people signed up?” Joe Hansen of Sidney Township asked Jongewaard (Hansen had already had a turn speaking).
“This is not the time and place for a public debate,” Anderson emphasized.
As Anderson repeatedly tried to bring the meeting back to order, audience members continued speaking and interrupting.
“Hey! Hey! You wanna get out of here? Shut up! It’s not your turn to talk,” Anderson declared, becoming frustrated.
Since he could not restore order, Anderson then abruptly adjourned the meeting without taking a vote.
“Run away, Terry!” a woman in the audience yelled at him.
“Go home!” a man in the audience yelled. “Big wind go home!”
The exchange was just another in a series of many heated moments in Douglass Township over the past nine months in relation to the township’s wind ordinance situation. The Douglass Township Planning Commission is scheduled to host a public hearing on a proposed “Citizens Ordinance” at 7 p.m. on July 28 before that ordinance goes to the township board for a vote. Anderson has repeatedly said the township board will follow the township attorney’s advice when it comes to voting on the ordinance.
Before Wednesday’s meeting was adjourned, the township board heard nearly an hour of public comment, including from Laura Engel and Keith Phelps, both of whom were on the agenda to speak in favor of wind energy.
“Citizens United should be in favor of a wind program, such as the one suggested by Apex, if they wish the area to remain rural and picturesque in character,” said Engel, a comment which was responded to by laughter from audience members.
“I continue to be baffled about the failure of the anti-wind folks to consider the long-term effects of a failure to provide for our ever-increasing energy needs,” Engel said.
Shick made a lengthy statement in reference to the May 5 Douglass Township Board meeting in which she and Anderson and Trustee Tom Jeppesen exchanged some heated words.
“I had assumptions made about me at the last meeting and many of you saw a side of me that I’m a little ashamed for because I lost my temper,” Shick said. “I don’t think I said anything wrong that I need to apologize for.”
Shick said she read eight wind ordinances in full and researched another 30 in order to draft a possible wind ordinance for Douglass Township, as she was requested to do by Anderson.
“No one has talked to me about that, only accused me of using Pierson’s (Township) as a basis,” she said. “I did not appreciate having someone scream ‘go F yourself’ in my ear after the meeting. He was talking to someone else, but it was here (in the township hall). I am 100% in favor of having green energy. I’ve been on the Planning Commission for 10 years. I was part of writing the master plan for our township. I had people I deeply trusted.”
Shick became visibly emotional at this point.
“Terry Anderson and I have had a wonderful relationship,” she said. “The donkey in with the goats, Belle, (at Anderson & Girls Orchard in Stanton) was born on my farm. I was never so hurt as I was last week (referring to May 5). I have a relationship that I had really been counting on for quite a few years. Terry knew a lot about me. He knows a lot about me. Maybe someday we can talk privately.
“I know for a fact that when we started writing our ordinance, Apex introduced us to someone from another county and said ‘this is a good ordinance’ and this is what we based the (ordinance) on,” she said. “And I am totally embarrassed that at that time as an educator I did not do the research then. We voted in an ordinance that was taken to a referendum. We swung the pendulum that way completely. Now we’ve swung it back. So please vote for it (the township’s pending “Citizens Ordinance”) and let the people referendum that one if there are that many out there.”
In response to Shick’s lengthy comments, Planning Commission Chairman Jack Jeppesen said, “Evidently the stop watch wasn’t working on that last speaker.”
Jeppesen then spoke about his attempts to encourage people to run for elected township positions. He noted no one ran against the current township board last year. He said at a recent meeting a resident was sharing some thoughts with him and Jeppesen encouraged that man to run in the next election.
“He leaned up to me and said ‘Go F yourself, I wouldn’t be caught up there dead,’” Jeppesen recounted. “Why didn’t you people get involved when the election was there? Don’t you know when the presidential elections are and things like that?”
Jeppesen’s wife Kellie also spoke while wearing a Montcalm Wind T-shirt from Apex.
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