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County commissioners battle over wind farm

More than 50 people packed the meeting room at the county Administration Building to hear details of a land-lease agreement between the county and Penn Wind, of Sunbury. Instead, they saw the two majority Democrats, Chairman Frank Sawicki and Vinny Clausi, snipe at each other and got a glimpse into why the deal is on shaky ground.

SUNBURY - The fracture among Northumberland County commissioners was apparent during Tuesday's public discussion of a proposed wind farm.

More than 50 people packed the meeting room at the county Administration Building to hear details of a land-lease agreement between the county and Penn Wind, of Sunbury.

Instead, they saw the two majority Democrats, Chairman Frank Sawicki and Vinny Clausi, snipe at each other and got a glimpse into why the deal is on shaky ground.

The commissioners couldn't even agree on the total acreage that was leased for $1 a year in 2007 to Penn Wind to develop an electricity-generating wind farm in Coal and East Cameron townships. Clausi said the deal involves up to 925 acres, while Sawicki said the project concerns only 23.

The agreement expired in December, according to the county, but Penn Wind says it automatically renews each year for the next 30 years.

In a meeting Friday to iron out a settlement, the deal was put in deeper jeopardy when Penn Wind divulged that it wants to sell the lease to an unidentified California company for $1.04 million and continue to pay the county $56,000 a year once the turbines begin operating.

Clausi wants more, and is asking... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

SUNBURY - The fracture among Northumberland County commissioners was apparent during Tuesday's public discussion of a proposed wind farm.

More than 50 people packed the meeting room at the county Administration Building to hear details of a land-lease agreement between the county and Penn Wind, of Sunbury.

Instead, they saw the two majority Democrats, Chairman Frank Sawicki and Vinny Clausi, snipe at each other and got a glimpse into why the deal is on shaky ground.

The commissioners couldn't even agree on the total acreage that was leased for $1 a year in 2007 to Penn Wind to develop an electricity-generating wind farm in Coal and East Cameron townships. Clausi said the deal involves up to 925 acres, while Sawicki said the project concerns only 23.

The agreement expired in December, according to the county, but Penn Wind says it automatically renews each year for the next 30 years.

In a meeting Friday to iron out a settlement, the deal was put in deeper jeopardy when Penn Wind divulged that it wants to sell the lease to an unidentified California company for $1.04 million and continue to pay the county $56,000 a year once the turbines begin operating.

Clausi wants more, and is asking for a percentage of the revenue, but Penn Wind CEO Justin Dunkelberger said his company's offer is the best for taxpayers.

Clausi called for the public to attend Tuesday's meeting to hear Penn Wind explain its position.

The residents heeded the call, but Dunkelberger and his partners were no-shows.

When Clausi asked aloud where the firm representatives were, Sawicki replied, "I think they're walking away."

Reached at his office after the meeting Tuesday afternoon, Dunkelberger said he showed up, but left when Sawicki told his colleague, Jim Garman, that the issue would not be discussed at the meeting.

An evening public meeting between the county and Penn Wind was scheduled to be held. No date has been set.

Throughout Tuesday's meeting, Sawicki defended Penn Wind's position and said its offer was a good deal for the county.

"Do we want to get the golden egg or do we want to kill the goose?" he asked.

Clausi argued that he doesn't want a repeat of what happened more than a century ago, when large companies made millions on coal and left the land scarred while area residents, who toiled in the mines, made little.

"Do we want business in Northumberland County? Absolutely. We want our fair share," Clausi said.

Coal Township Supervisor Gene Welsh asked the board to venture into the deal carefully and make sure the county gets what it deserves.

Robert Getchey, of Coal Township, appealed to the commissioners to work together in bringing new business to the area.

"The coal region is dying," he said. "You have to set your differences aside and work to get industry in."

At one point, the discussion became so heated for Sawicki that he uncharacteristically lashed out at a member of the public, Coal Township resident Barry Getchey, when he interrupted.

"Shut up. Shut up, or get out. I'm serious," Sawicki said, jabbing his finger toward the seated Getchey.

A little while later he apologized for the outburst. "I got tied up here," he said.

Clausi, on the other hand, was true to form, pulling out hand-made props to hammer his point home.

When he asked taxpayers in the crowded room to stand with him, they stood.

Sawicki quipped that some of them "needed a stretch."

Minority Commissioner Kurt Masser brought the discussion to an end by suggesting the board set guidelines before entering negotiations on these type of endeavors.

There was also brief talk about the county setting up wind turbines on its own, with assistance from the federal government, an idea that brought murmurs of approval from the crowd.


Source: http://www.dailyitem.com/01...

JAN 20 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/24203-county-commissioners-battle-over-wind-farm
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