On Tuesday morning, the Seneca County Commissioners passed a motion to restrict all unincorporated areas of the county from the development of any economically significant wind farms, large wind farms or large solar facilities.
Senate Bill 52 was introduced by State Senator and Tiffin native Bill Reineke and became law in October. The bill gives county commissioners across Ohio the authority to completely prohibit all major clean energy projects that generate 50 megawatts or more of electricity from some parts of or the entirety of their county.
The commissioners had a hearing on the topic during last week’s meeting, where several members of the public voiced their thoughts on the proposal. At the time, everyone who spoke was in favor of a blanket restriction of wind and solar projects.
At this week’s meeting, one person spoke out against the move.
Jim Donaldson joined the meeting via Zoom to represent what he called the “silent majority” that favors clean energy. He expressed his hesitancy to support the commissioners taking the option for all future clean energy projects out of the hands of the people, calling it “authoritarianism.”
“[Clean energy projects] should be up for a vote of the people every time,” Donaldson said, citing consequences from the coal and oil industries. “We have to protect the future of the planet we live on and the future of solar and wind power.”
Commissioner Mike Kerschner reminded at the meeting of his concern that major wind or solar facilities would be within 1,200 feet of some residents’ back doors, and said the existing option for referendum gives people the choice to accept or reject the commissioners’ decision.
To call for a referendum, citizens would have to file a petition with signatures from at least 8% of the county’s registered electors that voted in the last gubernatorial election, which was in 2018. For Seneca County, that would be more than 1,500 people.
“What we are trying to do is give the power back to the people,” Kerschner said. “I’m having a difficult time following the concern here.”
Donaldson said the board has no obligation to prevent all future solar and wind facilities, saying that the Senate Bill “should stand on its own merits.”
The only other member of the public to speak on the issue during Tuesday’s meeting was Steve Shuff, Seneca County Common Pleas Court judge who spoke as a private landowner in Eden Township. Shuff said he was within the confines of the Seneca Wind project when its application was filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board.
“I support entirely your resolution regarding SB 52 as a private citizen,” Shuff said. “Local control over this was nonexistent before – it was all handled by the state.”
In the end, both Kerschner and Commissioner Tyler Shuff voted in favor of restricting the county from clean energy. Commissioner Anthony Paradiso was not physically present and therefore could not vote, but expressed his support of the motion over Zoom.
In other business, the board discussed the county’s operating budget for 2022, but took no action due to Paradiso’s absence. Kerschner noted the board would move to pass the budget at the next meeting, on Thursday, Dec. 2.
The budget commission approved $19 million in revenue for 2022, but the commissioners received more than $20 million in budget requests for the general fund. County Administrator Stacy Wilson said she removed any requests for raises and equipment requests, bringing the total down to $18.9 million. Wilson noted the board may re-address raises early next year when the 2021 revenue is finalized.
As for supplemental appropriations, the board approved $22,470 for the JRIG Grant-CROSSWAEH for contract services, as well as $9,000 to the T-CAP grant for contract services.
Additionally, the commissioners approved a resolution establishing the public health workforce fund, a resolution establishing the Seneca County Health Alliance Fund and an amendment to purchase orders due to a scrivener’s error. The board also moved to authorize Seneca County Job and Family Services to accept Title XX Base and Title XX Transfer Allocations from Sandusky County Job and Family Services.
Finally, Kerschner read a proclamation in honor of National Adoption Month, which takes place each November. He declared that November will be “Adoption Recognition and Recruitment Month in Seneca County.”
Currently, nearly three dozen children in the county are in foster care, and 10 are awaiting adoption. Two are aged 13 or older. The average waiting time for a child in the system to be adopted is more than two and a half years, the commissioners said.
For more information on adoptable children and the foster care program, visit fosterandadopt.jfs.ohio.gov/profiles.
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