September 19, 2021

More discussion needed

Union County Board of Supervisors decides to hold off on third public hearing in order discuss setbacks

The Union County Board of Supervisors did not set a date for a third public hearing on a proposed wind farm ordinance at their regular meeting Monday at the Union County Courthouse.

The supervisors said they are not done discussing some of the issues brought up by the public, including setbacks from property lines.

Supervisor Rick Friday said he received several phone calls over the weekend and setbacks came up as frequent question. Friday asked what the ramifications would be if the setback to a non-participating owner’s property line was changed from 1.1 times the tower height to 1.5 times the height.

Matt Ott, of MidAmerican Energy, and Mark Zacconne, of Invenergy, said requiring further setbacks would begin to eliminate some smaller plots of land from being eligible for turbines. A setback of 1.5 times the tower height would disqualify 40s (forty acre plots of land) and narrow 80s.

Supervisor Ron Riley mentioned that a cap on the number of turbines had been brought up in the public hearing.

Tim Kenyon, Union County attorney, said that imposing an arbitrary cap would essentially be creating zoning which Union County residents and landowners have historically rejected. An arbitrary number would also be unlikely to hold up to a legal challenge.

The board discussed the issue of funds for decommissioning. According to the decommissioning plan, the board can require a bond or surety from the power company for purposes of decommissioning. This can be accomplished in a number of ways based on the size of the project and the financial stability of the company involved.

Kenyon clarified that all of the tools which could be used to satisfy this requirement can withstand bankruptcy and that the bond stays with the wind farm in the case of a sale to a third party; it does not revert back to the original company.

Riley questioned role of eminent domain in the ordinance.

Kenyon explained that eminent domain does not apply in this case because the county does not have the authority to take a private property to be used for a limited time and then pass it on to a third party.

Kenyon said, if the county was to implement zoning, that might open the door to the possibility of using eminent domain.

Roger Vicker proposed the board convert all of the setbacks to multipliers of the height of the wind turbines to safeguard against future taller turbines. Vicker also suggested that the board take into consideration a possible future expansion of the airport when finalizing the setbacks from it.

Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell presented a procurement policy designed and recommended by emergency management coordinator Jo Anne Duckworth to the board. This policy sets out guidelines for allocating funds from federal or state disaster monies either from the current disaster declaration or future ones.

The board voted unanimously to adopt the policy.

The board discussed social media advertising with Hysell offering to add supervisor business to her auditor Facebook page. This will be informational only and point readers to the county website where further information is already available.

Shaun Lauer, from buildings and grounds, brought up the possible need for air quality testing in the courthouse and law enforcement buildings. He has received reports of allergy-like symptoms from employees in the law enforcement center. There was also mold some tiles within the jail, which have since been removed. The strain of mold was not identified.

To conduct testing, Lauer received a quote of $2,500 to test for three types of mold, formaldehyde ... in the three areas of the building.

Lauer said, to his knowledge, no air quality testing had ever been done in the building.

The board requested that Lauer get a new quote to test the entire building.

Union County Engineer Zach Gunsolley presented a cost estimate of $350,000 in damage from the recent weather event.

Gunsolley reported on county road maintenance activity saying that while there is more work to be done, crews are starting to catch up.