— Opponents of the Eastern Howard Schools wind turbine project declared victory Monday, saying they had easily enough petition signatures to defeat the project.
Howard County officials have up to 15 days to validate all of the signatures, which the opponents said were collected from property owners and voters in the Eastern Howard school district.
Earlier this month, school board members said they would drop the turbine project if the opponents could gather 100 valid signatures on a petition.
Monday, Jeff Cox, one of the leaders of the opposition, said opponents had gathered close to 250 signatures.
“Our goal was to spare our community from having to endure an ill-conceived industrial installation and then to spend years paying it off,” Cox said in an email to the Tribune Monday. “Our faith in the stewardship of our school trustees was somewhat renewed when they conceded the project was causing divisiveness among Greentown residents and they didn’t want to prolong it.”
At a March 1 special board meeting, school board members reiterated their support for the project, which was expected to cost the schools about $3.7 million in principal and interest. The federal government was going to pay about $1.5 million toward the project’s cost.
But board president Matt Adams acknowledged the opposition.
“We heard you,” Adams said at the meeting. “The ball’s in your court. One-hundred certified signatures will stop this project.”
School officials signaled the day after that meeting that they would continue forward with the project until the signature issue was decided.
On March 2, they filed for a zoning variance with the Howard County Board of Zoning Appeals, asking for permission to install a wind turbine closer than 1 mile from a residential neighborhood.
Eastern Superintendent Tracy Caddell called the variance filing “a non-issue” and said the project would be dropped if the opposition could gather 100 signatures.
Caddell couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.
• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org