MONTICELLO – Apex Energy is one step closer to submitting a special use permit application to build a wind farm in Piatt County.
The county board last week unanimously approved changes to the current ordinance that were designed to protect drainage districts during the construction phase.
Apex Clean Energy is proposing a 300-megawatt project that would include approximately 60 turbines. Apex officials have not yet filed a special use permit, but have indicated they plan to in the summer or fall.
“We want nothing more than to develop a responsible, credible, transparent project,” said Ken Young, the Chief Operating Officer at Apex Clean Energy. “We intend to comply with all standards in your ordinance and all industry standards. We are going to own and operate the project for the long term so we have to be here to live with the consequences of that and we want nothing more than for the county to be satisfied and the residents too so they can enjoy the benefits of the project, as will we.”
Drainage district officials in the county voiced concerns after some damage was done to several tiles in DeWitt County on a similar project.
In March, the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals voted to recommend passage of some amendments drafted by Amy Rupiper, the Monticello attorney representing the DeLand Special Drainage District and Trenkle Slough Special Drainage District. Both are located in northern Piatt County in the footprint of the proposed Apex Energy Goose Greek Wind Project.
The Piatt County Board asked State’s Attorney Sarah Perry to write new language, taking into account the interests of both the wind farm and the drainage districts. Perry met with the parties and drafted a version for the ZBA to consider. The ZBA used Perry’s recommendation as the foundation for the new language, but did take into account some of Rupiper’s suggestions.
“I support the amended wording,” Perry said.
The final language stipulates that prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall provide the county zoning officer with a fully-executed written work agreement between the applicant, owner or operator, and any overlapping drainage district’s commission governing the parties’ rights relating to the impacted drainage facilities.
If no agreement is reached with any overlapping drainage districts, the applicant, owner or operator shall provide a written statement describing its attempts to reach an agreement with the overlapping drainage district’s commission regarding impacted drainage facilities.
“We look forward to getting our application in,” Young said. “I think you will see it to be a very credible effort and we look forward to getting going on the project. These projects represent major efforts to bring a $400-million project here and we are at that point where we are nearly completed with our work and we look forward to sharing that with the county, having a full, wholesome review, answering all questions and getting on to the construction and implementation of the project.”
In other business, the board did not approve a request for a raise from Piatttran director Jami Trybom.
Earlier this month, Trybom asked the transportation committee about a raise, saying her salary was below other department heads in the county. After a 20-minute executive session, a motion to give Trybom a 5% pay increase per year for the next two years failed with a 3-3 vote.
Voting in favor of the raise, were Jerry Edwards, Randy Shumard and Todd Henricks, all members of the Transportation Committee. Board Chairman Ray Spencer, Shannon Carroll and Gail Jones voted against the pay hike.
Trybom declined comment on the vote.
Following the vote, Spencer made a motion to ask the county’s consultants, Bellwether, to do a payroll audit of the transportation department. The board unanimously approved the motion.
Sangamon Township Trustee Mike Nolan addressed the board, announcing that this is the 150th year for White Heath and the township has set aside Sept. 10 to honor that.
“There will be a parade at 10 a.m., a car show and some kids’ games. We are trying to work with the railroad to have some things,” he said. “But what I am looking for from this board is some seed money to help with this celebration. We’re not asking for a lot – maybe $500 or $1,000.”
Nolan said he will make a more formal request to be placed on the budget for the August meeting.
Nursing Home Administrator Scott Porter said the interview process for the vacant Director of Nursing position. He will discuss the position with the committee the week of July 18 and may have an announcement soon.
Also, the preliminary steps for the engineering process for both the electrical upgrades and the HVAC system have been completed. Construction blueprints are being finalized and the project will be ready to bid soon.
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