Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 21, 2013

Wind farm battle turns personal

Opponents claim lack of due diligence by county officials.

By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer

— An opponent of the proposed Wildcat Wind Farm, slated for construction in eastern Howard County, said local officials are taking an uninformed risk in agreements reached with E.ON Climate & Renewables.

Joe Russeau told the Howard County Commissioners Monday he only learned of the planned wind farm just before the May 17 meeting. He questioned how the proposal was evaluated and how the public was notified of several meetings starting in 2009.

Russeau said he has reviewed the economic development agreement between E.ON and Howard County, stating it was an uninformed risk “based on assumptions and arrogance.”

He said the 10-year tax abatement granted to E.ON was critical to the financial viability of the project and the development is dependent on the tax abatement.

“Wind turbines are a factor in determining property values,” Russeau said. “People in the area of the wind farm will take the risk when it comes to property values. There will be a lower pool of potential buyers.”

Russeau questioned the legal advice county attorney Larry Murrell offered the commissioners in the negotiations with E.ON.

“Why would the county attorney recommend signing a document that tied the hands of the commissioners?” he asked. “The legal advice is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Russeau criticized the public notification of meetings that addressed the county’s wind ordinance and the contracts with E.ON, saying they weren’t transparent.

He said the county failed to do proper research on the wind farm issue.

Commissioner Paul Wyman countered the process was public, and the wind ordinance, tax abatement and agreements with E.ON were debated publicly before any action was taken.

“Very few people were here to remonstrate against the wind ordinance,” he said. “I have read the research.”

Wyman said no concerns were raised by local residents when tax abatements were granted to the Chrysler Group, and a Tipton County resident, Brian Key, who lives in the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm, said there was no impact on property values.

He said the statements by Key negate the argument of opponents that property values will be impacted.

“We’re not going to allow fear-mongering to take over when facts exist,” Wyman said. “There is no passing the buck. Don’t accuse us of not taking time to study the issue.

“The legal advice has been nothing short of superb,” he said. “We have a contract that was approved in a very public process.”

Wyman said in 2009, when the wind ordinance was approved, Howard County was a wind friendly community.

“People have changed their opinion,” he said. “We’re in active dialogue with E.ON and the people of Howard County.”

Joe Anderson said if the wind farm project goes forward and there is an adverse impact on his children or property values, he will sue the leaseholders and the county.

For four years, Anderson said, he has had neighbors lie to him about signing leases for the wind turbines.

“I don’t want to live in a community where you can’t trust the farmers,” he said.

Anderson then asked that a wind monitoring tower, located near his home, be removed within the next 60 days.

He said it was supposed to be there for 1.5 years and has been there for 4.5 years.