County board debates oversight of wind project

Begins search for third zoning official in just over a year

CLINTON — As the Alta Farms II wind energy project moves closer to construction, county board members with varying views on the role of zoning administrator continue to debate the role of that job and others connected to the project.

Board members who oppose and support the wind project also now find themselves scrutinizing a plan to build a large, commercial solar energy project near Weldon.  This has prompted the board to approve an expedited review of the county’s solar energy ordinance.

The current status of the wind energy project dominated the board’s Apr. 22 meeting.

Engineer Terry Fountain, with Cummins Engineering Corp., Springfield, gave a lengthy overview to county board members during the meeting about his firm’s functions in regard to the Alta Farms II special use permit.

Cummins has dealt primarily with roads and bridges but also has more recent experience with wind energy projects.

“Our main clientele is counties,” Fountain said.  “Working through the county engineers, we also have done a number of projects for townships.”

Fountain said Cummins also performs work for municipalities, private companies and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Cummins has worked with wind energy projects in Macon, Logan and Mason counties, and now in DeWitt County.

“Of those five wind projects, this will be my three and a half wind projects,” Fountain said.

Cummins is in charge of managing the road agreement for the project in addition to working with the county zoning office to ensure requirements for the Alta Farms II special use permit are met.  Cummins contract is with developer Enel Energy.

“When I talked to chairman Ferguson (county board chairman) and Dee Dee Rentmeister (board administrative assistant) about what we were doing; it looks like we’re going in the same direction,” Fountain said.

Fountain attended earlier county meetings at which board members discussed the scope of an engineer’s responsibilities in relation to the wind project. 

“At that time, I wanted to make sure the county board was very clear that we were there to serve the county,” Fountain said.  “Even though we have that agreement with Enel, and they’re paying for it, we wanted to ensure we are working for the county, and we have the best interests of the county foremost.”

During those discussions toward the end of 2020, some county board members opposing the wind project questioned whether it was possible a firm working for Enel would be open and forthright with county officials.

“We’re still working on that premise, because once this project is over, we still want to have that working relationship on future projects that may occur within the county or with the townships,” Fountain said.

Fountain has been in regular contact with county highway engineer Mark Mathon and, until recently, zoning administrator Aaron Paque’.  Ferguson mentioned during the meeting that Paque’ had tendered his resignation a few days earlier.

Paque’ was zoning administrator for about a year, replacing Angie Sarver, who served the county through two contentious public hearing periods for the wind project special use permit.

• See the full story in the Friday, print edition of the Clinton Journal or now in the Journal E-Edition for subscribers.



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