Bringing wind turbines to Cass County would prevent the community from thriving and be potentially dangerous, opponents of a proposed project told county commissioners Monday.
Renewable Energy Systems Americas, or RES, out of Broomfield, Colorado, is pursuing bringing commercial wind turbines to northern Cass and Miami counties.
Susan Selim, Logansport, shared a 2016 report on thriving rural and medium-sized Indiana towns at Monday's commissioners meeting. She said it addressed three qualities thriving rural communities share: quality of relationships among residents, trust in public officials and natural resources. Bringing industrial wind turbines to Cass County would violate all three of those qualities, she continued.
Selim also said a petition calling for Cass County's wind turbine setbacks to be a half-mile from nonparticipating property lines exceeds 1,800 signatures.
The county's current property line setback for turbines is the length of a rotor blade and its residential setback is 1,000 feet from homes. RES has indicated its setbacks for the project would be 1,500 feet form homes and 1.1 times turbine height from property lines.
Leslie Murray, Logansport, recalled at the commissioners meeting how Fulton County was originally planned to be part of the project before officials there banned commercial wind turbines from the county. She also referred to how the Miami County Plan Commission is considering 2,000-foot property line setbacks.
"Miami County and others have recognized the importance of having these turbines correctly sited and zoning is strictly about correctly placing structures in the community," she said.
Evan Criswell, Royal Center, said he calculated ice is capable of being thrown over 2,200 feet from a commercial wind turbine.
Kevon Martis, who spoke at an event project opponents organized last month, cited a Wind Energy article reporting commercial wind turbines are capable of throwing ice 328 to 2,000 feet.
RES has indicated in the past that the turbines planned for Cass and Miami counties will be equipped with technology that will perceive ice buildup and prevent the turbine from operating until the ice sheds.
Brad Lila, development director for RES, responded by email Monday to a submission to the Pharos-Tribune's public forum indicating RES is seeking 436 aeronautical studies from the Federal Aviation Administration for wind turbines in Cass, Fulton and Miami counties.
Lila wrote the filings were to study aviation issues in "an estimated project area," adding that design is "not representative of the final design of the project."
"As part of our development process, when we submit an initial design, we want to ensure that we consider all possible project layouts, so we have a better understanding of any constraints the project could face," Lila continued. "Then we amend the project layout design as we learn more, evaluate concerns, and listen and work with landowners and the community."
He added RES continues "to study aviation, siting, and other permitting issues in and around the counties" and that the company is "truly committed to bringing jobs and economic benefits" to the community.
Tony Molinaro, an FAA spokesman out of Chicago, said the administartion does not approve or disapprove proposed commercial wind turbine projects. He said the FAA determines whether or not airports would have to change flight patterns in light of the turbines to ensure safety. The FAA then provides that information to local officials to aid in their decision making, he continued.
In other news, the commissioners also:
• Heard from Cj Gilsinger, the county's information technology director, who said a power surge last week in the server room at the county's annex building on High Street killed the air conditioning and a notification alarm. He said it resulted in the destruction of a processor for the building's phones and a hard drive. All of the hard drive's data was backed up, he continued, adding the incident resulted in the loss of about $1,500 in equipment.
• Approved unanimously permission to hire a full-time field officer for Cass County's implementation of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.
• Heard from Richard Gundrum, the county's building superintendent, who said the Cass County Government Building's service and security elevators will start to be rebuilt in April. The elevator government building visitors use will not be affected.
• Heard from Cass County Sheriff Randy Pryor, who said 150 inmates were booked into the Cass County Jail in February and 149 were released. He also said insurance will likely total a sheriff's department car involved in a pursuit earlier this month that ended on a flooded road and received permission to replace it.
• Approved unanimously a $4,315.25 change order for the 400 South road reconstruction project after it was discovered the wrong kind of tile was put under the road. Cass County Highway Superintendent Jeff Smith said it was due to a designer error and that he intends to pursue reimbursement.
• Heard from Becki Harris, executive director of Logan's Landing, a nonprofit organization that represents downtown Logansport, who said its national accreditation as a Main Street organization has been renewed. She also encouraged those in attendance to vote online for Logansport in America's Main Street Contest. The winner receives $25,000 and tools for downtown revitalization. Votes can be cast at mainstreetcontest.com/profile/61.
• Heard from Cass County Commissioners President Jim Sailors, who said the commissioners are working on amending the government building's cellphone policy to ensure visitors can use their phones to record public meetings. The state's public access counselor issued an opinion earlier this month indicating the current policy violates the state's open door law.
Reach Mitchell Kirk at email@example.com or 574-732-5130.