Turbines topic for county board

Seneca County commissioners discussed wind turbine projects Tuesday morning and one commissioner vowed to work with residents to attempt to find a compromise.

Last week, Commissioner Mike Kerschner changed his stance on the project and moved to rescind the county’s Alternative Energy Zone. The AEZ makes wind turbine projects economically feasible for companies. Kerschner’s motion did not receive a second from Commissioner Holly Stacy. Commissioner Shayne Thomas, who was not at the meeting last week, said he would not have seconded the motion.

Several wind turbine projects are proposed for Seneca and surrounding counties, including two which Thomas said Tuesday likely would not be deterred even if the AEZ was rescinded — the Republic Wind Project by APEX and the Seneca Wind Project by sPower.

Thomas said Tuesday he understands the “divisiveness” created by the projects.

“My empathy for the folks who don’t want to look at (the turbines), it’s real,” he said. “I’m saddened that people have angst about this and it’s occupying so much of their time.”

Thomas said it has been “devastating” seeing people emotional and concerned for their homes.

“It’s challenging for us, I really feel it,” he said.

Thomas also said people must understand county officials can do only so much to stop the projects since the state regulates wind turbine projects of this size.

“I feel that continued calls to rescind the AEZ are misleading,” he said. “They are not effective in changing the tax structure for (Republic and Seneca Wind projects). I don’t know if these projects are going to move forward. It’s private business. They are the only people that know that.”

Thomas said the county is going to continue having a “clear and consistent approach” to economic development. APEX officials have said the Republic Wind Project is slated to bring about $93 million in additional tax revenue over 30 years.

“Maintaining the AEZ is conducive to that,” Thomas said. “Local property owners do have the right, under Ohio law, to develop their property for alternative energy.”

Thomas said he’s willing to sit down with Seneca Anti-Wind Union members to discuss reasonable and safe setbacks, requirements which are decided by the state government.

He said he believes the sides can compromise.

“At some point, the Legislature is going to ask us what we think about setbacks,” Thomas said to Greg Smith, a Bloom Township resident. “There is a possibility that maybe we can find common ground. I don’t think we are as far apart as you think we are.”

Thomas said he thinks a setback could be recommended that is not an impediment to future projects and satisfies neighboring landowners.

Smith said he believes current setback requirements, established in 2014, would be reasonable.

Stacy noted that since those setbacks were put in place, no new permits for wind projects in Ohio have been issued.

“They were put in place to protect my property rights (as a neighboring landowner to the project),” Smith said. “I’d like to see that honored.”

Smith said commissioners have a responsibility to listen to constituents who oppose the turbine projects.

“From a community perspective, it’s a responsibility on your side to understand the opinions and concerns of that group of citizens,” he said.

Charles Groat, of Bloom Township, said rescinding the AEZ might not affect the Republic or Seneca Wind projects, but could protect county residents from future turbine projects.

He said he was concerned that accepting the projects could have unintended consequences for school districts receiving more funding. He said this could include levies failing in the future.

In other business, commissioners received bids for a sidewalk improvement project in New Riegel Tuesday morning.

Seneca Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Charlene Watkins said the engineer’s estimate for the project, which includes replacing sidewalks on Perry, Findlay and Tiffin streets, was $100,000.

Quinn Concrete Construction, of Toledo, submitted a bid of $93,500 and DL Smith Concrete, of Norwalk, Submitted a bid of $99,346.50.

Watkins is to review the bids.

Before the meeting, the board observed a moment of silence in memory of recently deceased Bloomville Mayor Robert George.

According to his obituary, George died Saturday in the emergency room at Mercy Health – Tiffin Hospital after a sudden illness.

Thomas said George was a good partner for Seneca County.

“I want to recognize him today,” he said. “Our thoughts are with his family.”

In new business, commissioners approved:

• Four supplemental appropriations to various funds within Seneca County Sheriff’s Office totaling $1,400.85.

• Four fund transfers to the General Fund totaling $1,400.85.

• Two appropriation adjustments within the General Fund totaling $10,176.74.

• A $1,000 appropriation adjustment within the Maintenance and Repair Fund.

• A $6,415 fund transfer to the Capital Projects Fund.

• A $6,415 supplemental appropriation to the Capital Projects Fund.

• A $92,000 supplemental appropriation to the Maintenance and Repair Fund.

• A $55,000 appropriation adjustment within the Maintenance and Repair Fund.

• Setting 10:15 a.m. July 10 to receive sealed bids for the 2018 Pavement Marking Project.

• An agreement with Fostoria for the countywide Wireless Emergency Notification system. The city of Tiffin also entered into an agreement with the county for the system that is used to communicate with residents during emergencies.