CLINTON — Barring outcomes of two lawsuits currently pending against Tradewind Energy, the company is another step closer to beginning work on its Alta Farms II wind energy project in northwestern DeWitt County.
The DeWitt County Board voted Tuesday to approve several items to advance the project, including a construction observation contractor scope of services, a building permit review contractor scope of services, an insurance agreement and engineering services contract.
The board voted to table the sound study agreement and send it first through the land use committee.
County land use committee chairman Terry Ferguson reported during Tuesday’s virtual meeting that county zoning administrator Aaron Paque met earlier with representatives of Cummins Engineering, Springfield. Paque talked to Cummins about the county’s expectations in regard to work the company will perform in connection with the wind project.
“Cummins is a reputable firm out of Springfield,” Ferguson said. “I’ve had them do work for our township doing a bridge design.”
Ferguson is also a township official. Cummins has performed other work in DeWitt County.
Cummins was selected by Tradewind Energy to perform work on the wind project. This has been a point of contention between board members on opposite sides of the wind farm issue and between board members and members of a group called DeWitt County Residents Against Wind Turbines. Some disagree with Tradewind’s choosing the engineer for the project, feeling that the county should have that prerogative.
But, a representative of Cummins said his firm would work with the best interests of the county in mind. The company’s representative said his firm had worked on wind projects before, this one being its first for Tradewind Energy.
“We haven’t had a land use meeting for the past couple of months, when the zoning administrator could have brought this forward to us,” said board member Melonie Tilley.
Tilley felt the matters on Tuesday’s agenda that dealt with the wind project should have gone through the land use committee before going to the full county board.
“Terry, until you just spoke right now, none of us board members even knew that happened,” she said.
Ferguson apologized for not convening the land use committee, “to talk about this.”
On Wednesday, he voted to approve most of the items moving the project forward.
Tilley felt the wind farm items should have been sent back to the land use committee before going to the board, citing the county’s usual practice.
State’s attorney Dan Markwell, however, said since the special use permit already passed the county board, issues in connection with the permit did not necessarily need to go through the committee screening process. He said the decision was at the discretion of the county board.
Betsy Shifflet, a member of DeWitt County Residents Against Wind Turbines, addressed board members on Tuesday.
Tradewind Energy issued a statement after the meeting.
“The items up for vote are just like the decommissioning agreement you voted to approve in August,” Shifflet said. “Tradewind is submitting an engineering contractor or consultant that they have picked for your approval. We already know Tradewind has trouble submitting complete applications.”
Shifflet suggested Tradewind would have too much control over the engineering aspect of the project by naming the firm to perform the work.
“We already know this county board has trouble complying with its own ordinances,” Shifflet said.
Those opposing the wind project, including some board members, feel Tradewind’s special use application was submitted incomplete.
Tradewind officials maintain the company’s application met all requirements of the county’s wind energy ordinance.
Tradewind issued the following statement after the county board’s Tuesday meeting:
“The Alta Farms II wind project enjoys the support of DeWitt County residents and has earned the special use approval of the county board. We appreciate the continued attention of the county board to administrative items related to Alta Farms II, particularly during this challenging time. The county board left one item in the development process unfinished, and we will continue dialogue with county officials in an effort to resolve it. We look forward to generating new economic growth in DeWitt County.”
Tradewind Energy and DeWitt County are named as defendants is lawsuits brought by DeWitt County Residents Against Wind Turbines and the Village of Wapella to stop the Alta Farms II project.