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Wind energy comes to Union County

Union County Supervisors Rick Friday, left, and Dennis Brown look over a map of proposed wind turbines provided by MidAmerican Energy before voting to approve the permit.
Union County Supervisors Rick Friday, left, and Dennis Brown look over a map of proposed wind turbines provided by MidAmerican Energy before voting to approve the permit.

The first steps have been taken towards building wind turbines in Union County.

The Union County Board of Supervisors approved a permit request from MidAmerican Energy to build 36 turbines in northwest Union County. In accordance with an ordinance passed by the board in April, MidAmerican must also submit a road use agreement and a decommissioning plan, which must be approved by the board, before construction can begin.

Union County Engineer Zach Gunsolley stated that the permit application contained all of the necessary documentation, including scale maps of the area, which made it fairly easy to determine that all of the setback requirements in the ordinance were followed.

“We based all of our setbacks on the tallest turbines,” Matt Ott of MidAmerican said. “There were only two turbines that because of the setbacks had to be the smaller V110 turbines.”

The project will contain three different sizes of turbines. The closest turbine to the city of Creston will be north of 170th Street on Beechwood Avenue.

A representative from MidAmerican Energy stated that he expects construction will begin in the spring and be completed by the end of 2020.

Assistant county attorney

County Attorney Tim Kenyon spoke of the need for an assistant to cover court cases when he needs someone in different courtrooms at the same time. An assistant would also allow Kenyon time to prepare for cases rather than spend as much time in court.

In the future, Kenyon said, an assistant might also be used in a sharing agreement with other counties.

Supervisor Ron Riley requested that Kenyon provide the board with a written justification of the need.

Kenyon spoke of the Union County case loads as compared to other counties in the area.

“Our case numbers and statistics are very similar to Madison County,” Kenyon said. “In some categories we have more and the ones we have more on are more time consuming. We have a lot more domestic abuse cases ... we are seeing an increase in possession of marijuana ... Our juveniles are one of the highest now in the area.”

Kenyon also cited the overlapping of court cases. He stated that so far he has not needed to choose to settle or drop one case in order to prosecute another one, but the possibility exists.

By law, a full-time county attorney is not allowed to do defense work in addition to their duties. Kenyon stated that although an assistant could be designated as part time, the hours needed to fulfill the responsibilities of this position would not allow them time to develop a private practice in the area, which would limit the candidate pool.

The board would need to approve a budget amendment for approximately $75,000 to cover the salary and benefits for an assistant county attorney for the remaining part of the fiscal year. Kenyon stated that the salary would need to be at least $65,000 in order to attract and retain a qualified candidate.

Riley said the board would need to look at the budget. The board decided to add an item to next week’s agenda to vote on the request.

Secondary roads

The board opened three sealed bids for replacing pickups used by the secondary roads department.

Gunsolley stated that the current trucks are no longer reliable enough to make trips to Des Moines to get needed parts. He said his plan was for the new trucks to be used by himself and Al Hysell. The trucks they are currently using would move down and the oldest trucks would be sold at auction.

Supervisor Rick Friday questioned the wisdom of purchasing new trucks so early in the fiscal year with the uncertainty of the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements from the flood damage and the likely need for a budget amendment to cover the expected payout of comp time hours at the end of the fiscal year.

Previously, the board voted to reduce the number of allowed comp time hours from 120 to 40 with a one-time payout of excess hours at the end of fiscal 2019.

Gunsolley stated that he is more confident than Friday in the FEMA reimbursements as this his third experience with the FEMA disaster process and that the purchase of the trucks was included in the secondary roads budget for 2019. He stated that he wanted the board to be aware of potential costs of not replacing the trucks, such as repair of the existing trucks and time lost to break downs.

“I do have confidence on the FEMA reimbursement, but that’s not today and that’s not a check in hand,” Gunsolley said. “Ultimately, you guys do have to answer to the voting public, so I understand that, too. I want to make sure the board understands the potential downfall of waiting, extra wrenches turning on the old trucks or a break down somewhere.”

Riley stated that Gunsolley has been good at managing his budget in the past and that it is not good to get behind on the rotation of replacing vehicles, but Friday’s points were valid.

The board requested that Gunsolley bring this matter back to the board in six months.

In other county business:

• the board approved Gunsolley’s recommendation to hire Shane Berry for the Operator 1 position.

• secondary roads is continuing to haul rock from the Howe Quarry due to the fact that Thayer quarry is not operating at this time.

• the board approved a grading agreement with Union County Bird Dog Ranch on 210th Street after a discussion of the backlog of grading agreements and the possibility of adding a fee to future agreements.

Due to scheduling conflicts, next week the board will meet 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Union County Courthouse.

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