---- — How will county’s needs be funded?
Perhaps the small percentage of Tipton County’s population who oppose economic growth in the county via the use of wind energy would explain to the rest of the Tipton County citizens where funds can be obtained to provide the money for the present crucial and necessary projects in our county.
Current needs for the county are as follows: a new jail, approximately $8 million; courthouse renovation, $3 million; road repairs and upgrades, $3 million, a ditch drainage project, $10 million.
Total funds presently needed: $24 million.
Below are the facts pertaining to the economic impact that the Tipton County portion of the Wildcat Wind Farm has had on our local economy, as well as its future benefits:
• Estimated property tax revenue (30-year total): $15.4 million.
• Estimated landowner lease payments: $22 million. Those payments will pump money into the local economy, helping all businesses, and landowners will invest in property, and pay more property taxes, which benefits the county.
• Road upgrades: These will save the county between $4 million and $8 million.
• Economic Development Fund: $1.2 million.
• Local spending for the first phase of the Wildcat project: 315,000 man-hours and and more than $33 million on labor, materials, supplies and subcontractors as of April 2013. Eighty percent of the hires are local. The local hires spend their earnings with local businesses, which helps our overall local economy.
The total direct economic benefit to Tipton County through this project is between $42 million and $48 million.
The huge investment in this project has increased the tax base, resulting in potentially lower tax rates and/or more revenue (especially in school capital funds.) A teacher who is employed by Frontier School in White County, Ind., has said that due to the economic benefits of the wind project, the school now has more than enough funds to fulfill the district’s needs for its students.
What other economic opportunities are before the county of this magnitude? What message does the county want to send other businesses thinking about locating in Tipton County?
A small percentage of the overall population of Tipton County should not penalize the majority by denying present and future citizens an economic opportunity that will help fund items the county desperately needs.
Residents getting dizzy from the spin
The statements from juwi Wind’s attorney and the leaseholders regarding being denied “due process to an open, public hearing” are not in accordance with reality. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) never agreed to grant a second public hearing concerning juwi’s request to modify the conditions of a decision.
Due process was given in an open, public hearing in March. The BZA was clear in its motion to allow the conditional use, but only with a wind turbine setback of 1,500 feet from any property line and a property value guarantee agreement. Juwi was asked to submit a proposal for the property value guarantee to be considered at a future meeting.
On May 23, juwi presented its guarantee proposal, but also submitted a request for a setback modification half the distance the board had voted on. A month later the BZA attorney, who is also the commissioners’ attorney, issued his opinion that the board should hear juwi’s request for modification of the setback.
There’s nothing in the zoning ordinance that allows for a “request for modifications,” and the zoning administrator (per the ordinance) is only authorized to “administer and enforce the provisions of the ordinance.”
The attorney also stated he and Mr. Edson had a conference call July 26 with all other attorneys involved to discuss and agree on the format of the BZA public hearing. Some of the BZA members acted like they had never seen the papers outlining this, and the president said he had just received the information late that afternoon by email.
Shouldn’t the board president be a participant in a conference call determining the structure for a BZA hearing? Why are others making the decisions for the BZA and then expecting it to tag along submissively?
Juwi is not owed anything other than a hearing on its property value guarantee proposal. The findings of fact are clear. Instead of accepting them as non-negotiable, juwi made a very unconventional request by asking the board to re-open discussion on an issue it had voted on.
If others gave juwi and the leaseholders the impression the BZA had “agreed to hear” the request, then they are accountable for the misunderstanding. The BZA took the next step following the receipt of an unsolicited request and voted to reaffirm its decisions are firmly established and cannot be adjusted. I commend the three members for their resolve in upholding their rules and procedures “across the board,” and chastise those who attempted to assume control of the BZA.