Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 2, 2013

Public eye - Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013

By Ken de la Bastide and Scott Smith
Tribune columnists

A spy in the crowd

Every Wednesday the Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development meet at the south branch of the Kokomo/Howard County Public Library to plan their opposition to the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm, just west of Sharpsville.

Prairie Breeze is being developed by juwi Wind. The company plans to invest $300 million for the placement of 94 wind turbines that will generate 150 megawatts of electricity. The company’s request for a conditional use permit is set to be heard Feb. 25 by the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals.

During last week’s meeting a man at the meeting said he recently stood close to a wind turbine and said the noise was not intolerable. He added that he believed most farmers were supportive of the project.

The man said he wasn’t a lease holder and didn’t work for juwi.

Since the meetings are open to the public, it would probably be safe to believe that supporters of the wind farm project — or juwi company officials — would be in attendance to learn the group’s strategy.

Killing machines

In Tipton County, much will probably be made of the predilection of wind turbines to kill birds, but last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with Smithsonian researchers, identified an even bigger threat: outdoor cats.

According to the researchers, roughly 150,000 to 400,000 birds in the United States die in wind turbines, according to recent estimates, while between 10 million and 1 billon birds die annually after colliding into glass.

Cats, however, are suspected of killing between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds each year in the U.S. That’s about 10 percent of the total bird population.

We won’t go as far as the New Zealand researcher who suggested outlawing cats, but one wonders how much stress the poor birds can stand. Maybe it’s best to keep Fluffy indoors.

A financial hit

Most people who have a savings account or a certificate of deposit with local financial institutions know that the current interest rates aren’t exactly a windfall.

For local units of government with millions to invest, interest revenue once provided a significant amount of additional funding.

Last year, Howard County earned $133,599 on investments of $11 million, according to Treasurer Ann Wells. That may sound like a great deal of funding, but not in comparison to the $2.3 million earned in 2007.

Wells said the interest earned last year was the lowest amount since 2001.

She said the interest earned is distributed based on a percentage to nine different funds, the county’s general fund earned $98,904 in interest.

Bonita Guffey, Tipton County Treasurer, said the county earned only $22,966 on investments in 2012. That compares to the $92,858 earned in 2009.

Guffey said the county has not invested a great deal of money in 2012 because the interest rate for a savings account was lower than for a checking account.

Downtown beautification

For those keeping track of the city’s infrastructure projects, which isn’t easy, keep an eye on Apperson Way between Superior Street and Vaile Avenue.

Last week, the Kokomo Board of Public Works & Safety approved plans and specifications to continue the tree-lined medians further south, extending the corridor which stretches up to Taylor Street. The corridor will connect the new veterans housing project at Jackson Street with the renovated wing of the Memorial Gym complex, which is slated to host Indiana University Kokomo’s home basketball games.

City officials haven’t yet bid out the Apperson project.

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