OSWEGO – After two closed sessions for discussions with their attorney, Labette County commissioners on Monday voted to rescind an April 30 resolution that set negotiating terms with a German utility.
The closed sessions totaled 45 minutes at the end of a meeting that featured another dust-up between two commissioners over wind development.
RWE Renewables is looking to develop a portion of western Labette County for a wind energy project. The development encompasses 19000 Road south to 8000 Road and Douglas Road east to Meade Road.
After the two closed sessions, Commissioner Cole Proehl spoke.
“I think it’s time that we relooked at that resolution that I did back in April. It was designed to … for seven months to have negotiations and discussions, and now it’s set to expire in two weeks. I don’t want to be under the gun to negotiate if that’s where we’re headed,” Proehl said.
He made a motion to rescind his April 30 resolution. Commissioner Brian Kinzie seconded the motion. On April 30, Proehl brought forward the resolution, which he and Kinzie supported. Commissioner Lonie Addis voted no.
The main points of Proehl’s resolution:
— Setbacks would be 1.1 times the height of a turbine, or 500 feet from public roads and non-participating property lines, 1,600 feet from non-participating residences, follow federal guidelines for water and wildlife habitat, 1 mile from incorporated towns within Labette County.
— RWE would be required to pay cash or provide a surety bond of $9.7 million for future decommissioning of turbines.
— Payments in lieu of taxes would total $7,500 to $9,000 per megawatt with annual adjustments for inflation of 2% and 10% and increase in years six, eight and 10. An initial payment of $1.5 million would be given to Labette County at project commencement.
— A voluntary payment of $50,000 to joint rural fire departments of Labette County.
— Voluntary payment of $50,000 to the Labette County Sheriff’s Office and $50,000 to 911 dispatch.
— A road use agreement for use of roads that will be monitored by Labette County personnel.
— All legal, surveying, consultation, construction and repair costs are to be paid by RWE.
— No lights on towers other than those that meet the minimum Federal Aviation Administration requirements, and no high-intensity strobe or white lights shall be permitted at night unless an infrared heating device is used to protect wind-monitoring equipment.
County Counselor Brian Johnson said he could prepare a resolution to rescind Proehl’s resolution for the Nov. 22 meeting.
“I think it’d be good. Then at the appropriate time we can all sit down together and come to this together. Come to those points of interest together,” Kinzie said.
The motion to rescind the April 30 resolution passed 3-0.
The dust-up earlier in Monday’s meeting between Commissioner Lonie Addis and Proehl started with a question from Mike Howerter. He wanted to find out if commissioners would make a decision on entering an agreement with RWE before the Dec. 7 special election on the question of recalling Kinzie. A judge denied Kinzie’s request for an injunction to stop the recall over questions of the validity of the process. Kinzie is appealing the ruling in the recall effort but an appeal has not been filed. Kinzie’s attorney Robert Myers has requested a transcript of the recall hearing. The recall effort related mainly to Kinzie’s violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act by calling Proehl days before Proehl introduced the resolution on April 30.
Kinzie told Howerter that no one contacted him about taking action before the special election. Addis said nothing was in the works.
Proehl asked Addis if he’d heard from RWE. Addis said no one from RWE contacted him. Johnson said he has been in contact with RWE, which has been sending him information. He said he would present it to commissioners as soon as he had it and Addis has the ability to bring it forward.
Proehl wanted to know more details.
“I received an agreement. I asked Commissioner Addis how he wanted to handle it, and he said that we would handle it at the next meeting because of the way your agenda was for today,” Johnson said.
Addis said commissioners had to canvass the Nov. 2 election Monday and had planned a visit to the county barn in Altamont for a holiday meal, which was canceled because three Public Works employees had tested positive for COVID-19.
Howerter asked if there was a chance the agreement could be signed before Dec. 7.
Addis said he hoped not. Kinzie said he wasn’t aware of an agreement.
“Sounds like Brian might have something to give to us today,” Kinzie said.
Howerter asked again if the agreement could be signed before the Dec. 7 recall election. Kinzie said he didn’t know why not. Howerter said the wind energy development was one of the issues that triggered Kinzie’s recall.
Kinzie said he’s still in office and has a job to do.
Proehl asked Addis when he received the RWE information and if he kept the RWE agreement from his fellow commissioners. Addis opposes wind development and Proehl and Kinzie support it.
Addis said he received the information last week but thought commissioners would be too busy Monday to take it up.
Proehl asked Addis why he got to decide.
“I haven’t seen a thing, OK,” Addis told Proehl in a raised voice. “That’s where it’s at.”
Proehl told Addis there was no need to yell.
“Sometimes that’s how I get my message across,” Addis said.
“I don’t care about your message quite frankly,” Proehl said.
“I don’t care about you either,” Addis said.
Proehl asked Addis if he was trying to control the RWE information.
Addis told Proehl to shut up for a minute and tried to explain his reasons for not bringing the information forward. He explained about the busy agenda and the trip to the county barn, which had since been canceled. Addis said he thought he would bring it up after the canvass was completed.
Proehl then told Addis he just tried to sit on the information so the recall election could happen before an RWE decision was made.
Addis said that would be a good idea but he wasn’t trying to drag the matter out for that purpose.
“We know what you’re trying to do,” Proehl said.
“I have had about enough of you,” Addis told Proehl. Proehl responded: “I don’t really care.”
Howerter asked Addis to calm down and the tense exchange ended.
Proehl said he just thinks all three commissioners should have the same information.
Howerter asked Proehl if he was in favor of deciding on an RWE agreement before the recall election.
Proehl said the people he’s heard from in his district are 5-1 in favor of the wind development. He said that was not based on a poll but just people he’s spoken to.
Howerter asked Proehl again if he would support a vote on an RWE agreement before the recall election.
Proehl said he thought of the wind project as economic development and wanted to keep the county out of litigation that could bankrupt it. The wind development is not perfect.
Still waiting on his answer, Howerter asked Proehl again if he would support an agreement before the recall election.
Proehl said he would. The development would bring millions to the county and it represents free enterprise.
Howerter said not all people in Kinzie’s 2nd District want the development. Research shows some real problems with win turbines, he said. Howerter said if Proehl supported the development that his prediction is that Proehl could face a recall effort as well. He noted that fewer signatures would be required in Proehl’s 3rd District.
Proehl asked Howerter if that was a threat. Howerter said that’s just his opinion. But he would work with any committee formed and help it organize.
Howerter asked Kinzie if he would support signing an agreement before the recall election.
Kinzie said he has a hard time believing an agreement would be ready by then.
“This is bigger than we’ve ever had in Labette County,” Kinzie said. Making the agreement takes time. “It’s not going to happen in three weeks.
“We’re starting from ground zero. We haven’t received anything,” Kinzie said.
Addis then clarified what information he had. He said Johnson contacted him Friday afternoon and said he had a draft of an agreement from RWE. Addis said he told the counselor that the commission would be really busy on Monday and he didn’t know if they would have time for a closed session discussion. He said the commission could have that discussion Monday.
Johnson said he contacted Addis Friday. Kinzie asked Johnson if the commission would be in a position to sign the agreement with RWE. Johnson said no.
“That’s the whole point, Mike. We’re weeks away from anything,” Kinzie said.
“I have no problem stating that my recommendations is you should not be willing to sign this agreement,” Johnson said. He said he’s read the agreement and he would advise commissioners not to sign it.
Commissioners met in closed session with Johnson later in the meeting.
In other matters, commissioners:
— Heard a presentation from a Rotary International official on Project SMART to help communities fight drug addiction from opioids using money from pharmaceutical companies to pay for intervention measures from Narcan training and disposable bottles for unused prescription pills in the house. Parsons Rotarians attended the meeting, too. Rotary asked commissioners to pass a resolution to implement the program in the county at no cost to the county. Labette Center for Mental Health Services would help with the paperwork needed in the program. Commissioners took no action but seemed supportive.
— Agreed to purchase chemicals for the Noxious Weed Department from Van Diest at a cost of $23,540.35. Chemicals include glysophate, 2,4-D Amine, Escort, Patriot, Pasturgard and Outrider.
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