Commissioners said little concerning the Henry County Planning Commission’s “no recommendation” on the controversial Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) ordinance. But opponents said plenty – as much as they could squeeze into the 15-minute public comment section of Wednesday’s meeting.
Well-known wind turbine opponents Kenon Gray, Susie Eichhorn, Peg Stefandel and Judy Walker took turns at the microphone.
Gray offered some statistics he thought were pertinent to the ongoing wind argument about population density, arguing counties that currently have wind farms have much lower populations than Henry County.
According to Gray:
• Benton County has 22 persons per square mile;
• Jay County has 54 persons for square mile;
• Tipton County has 55 persons per square mile; and
• Randolph County has 56 persons per square mile.
But Henry County, Gray said, has 124 persons per square mile, implying that should change elected officials’ thinking about the current wind ordinance, where setbacks continue to be a hot-button issue.
While Gray was analytical, Eichhorn was blunt and emotional.
“I am in mourning today,” she said. “The death of Henry County is beginning, and you three are the ultimate vote. Never in my life have I seen democracy in a free country not work. You had 43 speakers last night speaking against wind. And that’s not the first time.”
Stefandel verbally attacked the commissioners on the “freedom of speech” issue for not letting the topic of “wind” come up during the 15-minute public comment period.
“We didn’t start any of this,” she said. “We found out what was going on behind our backs.”
She said the amended version of the wind ordinance was worse than the original. But afterwards, Commissioner President Butch Baker again stressed the changes made were largely recommendations from wind opponents.
Stefandel said the whole wind turbine issue was akin to “stealing our property rights.” But afterwards, Baker said no one seems to consider the rights of area farmers who might be interested in making extra money by allowing turbines on their property.
Walker asked a procedural question.
“She (Olene Veach of the Henry County Planning Commission) voted for this because she expected you would hear from last night everybody who spoke and understand this was not good enough,” Walker said. “My question to you is, ‘does it matter at all?’ She voted in favor of a no recommendation with the caveat that setbacks were not good enough.”
Commissioner Ed Yanos assured Walker concerns of Veach would be addressed.
“I’m sure all three of us will be willing and eager to talk to Olene Veach about that,” Yanos said.
Yet, Baker said afterward no matter how restrictive the setback language is, he didn’t think wind opponents would be happy unless the ordinance absolutely prohibited wind turbines in Henry County.
Still others after the meeting said a handful of wealthy Henry County farmers interested in having the wind turbines could change the local landscape for thousands of others forever if the wind ordinance isn’t strict enough.
Commissioner Kim Cronk said afterward the issue would be discussed again at the next meeting, scheduled 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22.
In other business, the Commissioners:
• Approved cancelling the Wednesday, Dec. 26 meeting and rescheduling it for Wednesday, Dec. 19.
• Accepted a proposal from Quality Plumbing & Heating for $10,555 to replace a chiller compressor at the former Henry County Youth Center.
• OK’d a 36-month copier maintenance agreement with Leap Managed It for a base price of $109 per month starting Aug. 1. The agreement includes a monthly overage rate for black copies at .012 cents each and color copies at .060 cents each.
• Assigned four tax sale certificates to the Town of Lewisville, two on S. Williams Street, one on Helen Boulevard and another on U.S. Hwy 40.
• Agreed to pay for creation of a handicap parking space needed on the north side of Memorial Park with the cost not to exceed $3,000.
• Granted permission to Lori Norris to place signs on the courthouse lawn for a Sept. 22 charity event to raise awareness of a condition called chiari malformation (kee-AH-ree mal-for-MAY-shun), a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. It occurs when part of the skull is abnormally small or misshapen, pressing on the brain and forcing it downward.
• Heard Norris talk about the poor condition of her rural road, County Road 200 West. “I just got to spend $560 on a repair due to pothole damage,” she said. “Our road is a high-use road because of the two CAFOs just north of us and it’s kind of like a mini-highway. I would appreciate any additional attention that can be given.