Commissioners hear concerns from producers, residents
In the recent meeting of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, several county residents voiced concerns regarding the safety of ag producers and school buses during the construction process of the wind farm being built by NextEra Energy.
A group of numerous county residents, many of whom live in the area of the wind energy center, brought valid concerns to the board on Tuesday, asking questions pertaining to haul routes and bus routes, farm equipment meeting construction equipment and what will become of the roads once the construction is complete.
One such resident was Lori Owens, who asked for a copy of the haul routes being proposed as well as a copy of the road haul agreement.
Commissioner Randy Larson told Owens that the road haul agreement document was public and provided her with a copy. The commissioners explained that many of the questions being posed regarding the treatment of the roads and bridges were answered throughout the agreement.
Highway Superintendent Mark Casey cautioned Owens that the haul routes were simply proposed at this point and there was not a finalized route, but he made copies of the most current route for Owens and anyone else who wanted one.
Owens voiced concerns about the efficiency of the farmers this fall if they are forced to work around the construction equipment.
The Commissioners, County Attorney Mike Pieper and County Sheriff Jason Dwinell took turns answering questions like who has the right of way on the road -- to which common courtesy was cited, just as would be the case if two combines should meet.
Other questions regarding the widening of roads and intersections were answered by Casey, who referred numerous times to the road haul agreement. One such question, will the widened intersections be put back to the way they were before, was answered by Casey who said the county has the ability to pick and chose which, if any, of the roads and intersections they would want back in the original condition.
“If it’s beneficial to the farmers to leave them wide, then we will. That’s up to us to decide,” he said.
In regards to the bus route questions, Casey and a NextEra representative answered, stating that Next Era has contacted the bus company and will meet with them to discuss their routes and determine the times in which they run to ensure the safety of school students isn’t jeopardized in any fashion.
Jody Kingsley also came before the board to discuss the power pole issue that she and her husband Ray brought up during the last meeting of the commissioners.
The Kingsleys had found stakes in the ditch directly in front of their home. The stakes tentatively mark out where poles may be placed in the construction of a large transmission line.
Last meeting, the Commissioners stated that they had no control over what NPPD did, stating there was a state statute that enabled power companies to essentially do as it pleases.
Kinglsey came back to the board with a federal statute she found stating that the county is to go to bat for the land owner, so to speak.
Commissioner Larson agreed with her in that he would be furious to find such a large transmission line going in front of his house and referred to his own property a few years back where he came home to find NPPD was putting lines up. He said he fought it and got no where, so he understood how she felt.
But his understanding didn’t change what NPPD was allowed to do. He referred to state statute 70-305 which states, “Any person engaged in the generating or transmitting of electric current for sale, use, or purchase in the state for power or other purposes is granted the right-of-way for all necessary poles and wires along, within, and across any of the public highways of this state. Such person is liable for all damages to private property by reason of the use of the public highways for such purpose. Such damages shall be ascertained and determined in the manner set forth in sections 76-704 to 76-724.”
Kingsley said she felt like a broken record but is frustrated that the landowners have all the responsibilities and no rights.
Another county resident Roger Brandt asked about the property tax rate on the towers, questioning why they aren’t taxed at the normal commercial rate.
County Assessor Dawn Duffy was on hand to answer Brandt’s question, stating that the tax rate is set by the legislature. She gave the number of $3,518 per megawatt.
Brandt was unhappy with the answer, and voiced his frustration at the state officials who say that property taxes are a local issue when obviously that’s isn’t the case.
Numerous other questions were taken and answers given in as many instances as possible before the meeting ended.
Prior to the concerns voiced, Nic Kemnitz discussed two training opportunities he will be taking part of as Emergency Management .
One, hosted in Dakota City on June 26 and 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days will cover Emergency Operations Centers and their relationships to Multi-Agency Coordination Systems.
The other training is being held June 27 at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pilger Fire Hall.
The fourth annual Hazmat Night Out will cover hazmat plans and education of the general public on chemical awareness and tracking chemical inventory. This training session does require registration as food is provided. Registration closes on Monday, June 25. Those interested can call Melanie Thompson at 402-529-2233 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Kemnitz gave a brief update on the communications tower that was being used by another community after their tower was destroyed. The tower was being returned this week.
The next meeting of the commissioners will take place on July 3 at 9:00 a.m.