By Kendra Hennis
The meeting of the Douglas County Board was called to order on December 18 at 9 a.m.
On the discussion of legal cannabis in Douglas County, the board approved ordinance 19-O-8, prohibiting the location of adult-use cannabis business establishments in unincorporated territory in Douglas County, approved ordinance 19-O-9, establishing a county cannabis retailer’s occupation tax of three percent in municipalities located in Douglas County, amended ordinance 17-O-6 to include, under ‘section two: prohibition on possession of cannabis’ to say, “It shall be a violation of this section for any person to knowingly possess more than 30 grams of raw cannabis, cannabis-infused products containing more than five hundred milligrams of THC or five grams of cannabis products in concentrated form and approved resolution 19-R-36 amending the employee handbook. Under the ‘illegal drugs’ section, it now reads, “possession, use, sale, purchase, or being under the influence of an illegal drug, including marijuana, which is illegal under federal law, or drug paraphernalia by any employee while at work or on County business is absolutely prohibited.”
The board then approved resolution 19-R-33, adopting the collective bargaining agreement for deputy sheriffs in the rank of sergeant and lieutenant and resolution 19-R-34, adopting the collective bargaining agreement for corrections officers and corrections sergeants. This means that Douglas County, or its designated representative, agrees to meet with and negotiate with a committee representing the Union for the purpose of negotiating and executing a new Agreement covering wages, rate of pay, hours, and other terms and condition of employment. Such negotiations shall be participated in by the parties to the end that a full formal Agreement is adopted and effectuated within a reasonable period of time.
On the development side, the board approved resolution 19-R-35, appropriating $120,000.00 ($24,000 from County Aid to Township Bridge Funds and $96,000 from Township Bridge Funds) for the Local Agency’s share of the estimated cost of $600,000.00 for section 07-03122-01-BR. They also approved County Bridge Fund Petition CATB 20-01 of the City of Villa Grove with an estimated cost of $76,000 and provided assistance in the amount of $38,000 for the reconstruction of their bridge over Embarrass River on Front Street.
There were a lot of public comments at the board meeting. The first was a statement by a concerned citizen. He said, “Mr. Chairman, my remarks this morning are related to the issue of decommission of the wind turbines being constructed in Douglas County. In similar projects across the county, as well as in other countries, when you meet the end of the productive service, the cleanup of those projects has resulted in serious challenges for local and regional residents where those turbines are sited. We are already aware of the fact that Earth will be replaced above the concrete platforms, to a depth of only four feet from the surface, and that an immense number of tons of concrete will be forever planted in our rich Douglas County farmland. However, the concerns for reclamation go far beyond just this issue. The Institute for Energy Research states that, and I quote ‘as with other aspects of renewable energy, the decommissioning of wind turbines was not planned out well, in terms of their disposal when their usable life is over. Because wind turbines have a shorter life span than most other technologies, the dismantling of these units is already in progress in Europe, and will soon be needed in the United States.’ Due to the size of the units, landfills do not have the capacity or the equipment to break down the huge rotor blades. The composition of wind turbine blades is largely a mix of resin and fiberglass. They are exceptionally difficult and expensive to transport. They are quite challenging to break down and manage, and finding landfill space for them is an increasingly greater challenge, as they outlive their usefulness. In Minnesota, Xcel Energy estimates conservatively that it will cost them $532,000 to decommission each of its wind turbines. A cost of $71 million to decommission the 134 turbines in operations at its Noble facility. Decommissioning the Palmer’s Creek Wind Facility in Chippewa County, Minnesota, is estimated to cost $7,385,822 for the 18 wind turbines operating at the site, for a cost of $410,000 per turbine. It is apparent from these figures that the cost for such removal of the Harvest Ridge Wind Turbines run possibly in the tens of millions of dollars. I would hope that the board understands the wisdom for ensuring the strategic planning necessary in order to avoid the issues faced by other communities for a lack of responsible planning has left the people, including the landowners who have signed agreements with EDP, with serious financial and environmental liabilities related to the decommissioning of their turbines. I pose the following questions to the County Board. Number one, what is the plan for the disposal of the wind farm’s waste once it has been decommissioned? Is there an agreement with a disposal site, such as a landfill, or recycling plant of some sort, to accept the waste. If so, I would like to know the location of that site. Number two, what guarantees has EDP offered for the decommissioning of the Harvest Ridge project, what is the projected figure by EDP for the decommissioning? If those figures have been offered by EDP, has the board investigated the validity of those figures? Thirdly, is there to be money set aside in an escrow account of some sort, to guarantee that the cost of decommissioning will be met. If so, will that money be deposited in Douglas County financial institutions? I close with this, most of us in this room today will have passed from this old world before the Harvest Ridge Turbines will have to be removed. It lies incumbent upon us to make sure that the generations of Douglas County residents following us will not be burdened with the environmental cleanup of this project. To do less would be shameful. Thank you for your time.”
The next comment was from a concerned citizen who said, “Would you please consider moving the County Board meeting to the evening so that people who work have the opportunity to attend the full County Board meeting? The one place we could find out who does or does not want that would be on a ballot. We have many people who work would like to come to this full County Board meeting but they only have so many days off and they are not able to. It would add to the transparency that I know you are trying to create in this meeting and in our County. Thank you.”
The final remark was by a concerned citizen who said, “So at last week’s road and bridge meeting, there were some issues and concerned raised by citizens in the footprint about the road conditions and the safety issues happing with the construction. I am curious and have not seen it anywhere, what responsibility does the board, as the permitting body, hold in monitoring that situation and dealing with that situation. Does that strictly fall on Jim Crane’s shoulders or do you as the board hold some responsibility as well?”
The board declined to comment on these at this time and will discuss them at future meetings.
The board also:
– Approved the minutes from the November 6 special board meeting.
– Approved the minutes from the November 21 special board meeting.
– Approved the minutes from the November 20 regular board meeting.
– Approved the payments of the county’s financial obligations.
– Approved resolution 19-R-32, authorizing the cancellation of the appropriate certificates of purchase for parcel 09-02-34-429-004.
– Approved the renewal of public defender T. Jeannine Garrett.
– Approved the appointment of Toby Ring to Scattering Fork Drainage District.
– Adjourned until the regular board meeting on January 15 at 9 a.m.