MONTICELLO — The Piatt County Zoning Appeal Board will consider an addition to the county’s wind energy conversion ordinance at its March 24 meeting.
The request to add language to protect district drainage systems came from Monticello attorney Amy Rupiper, who represents several drainage entities in the area. At least two of them are located in the proposed Goose Creek Wind Project in northern Piatt County.
Rupiper said drainage officials want to make sure tile and ditch maintenance is included in the county code as it relates to wind turbines, the same way it treats county roads in the zoning ordinance.
“What we would like to see is for drainage districts to be treated the same as road districts,” Rupiper told the county council on March 9.
“In your current order, what is required before they can get planning permission is that they must already have a written road use agreement.
Rupiper said there was no such provision for drainage districts and suggested it be added to the wind energy conversion ordinance, including a written working agreement between the commissioners. drainage district and wind companies prior to issuance of permits.
An impact study must also be provided.
The proposed amendment “would also require wind energy companies to obtain a written labor agreement with the (drainage) commissioners, who have jurisdiction,” Rupiper added.
The issue came to light at a recent state drainage district meeting, which discussed an apparent lack of protection for districts in DeWitt County, where construction is underway on a 200-meter wind project. megawatts by Enel Green Power North America.
In Piatt County, Apex Clean Energy is proposing the 300-megawatt Goose Creek Wind Project that would include about 60 turbines, about 45 of which would be in the Blue Ridge School District. No formal application has been made for the necessary special use permits, but Apex officials said they expect to apply in the second or third quarter of this year.
Apex spokesman Max Jabrixio told the county council that the company has already collected information from local drainage districts.
“We asked (the county) what records they already have on drainage districts over the past few weeks,” Jabrixio said.
“We really intend to work with the drainage districts.
Apex project developer Emily Neuharth added that the company has also been in contact with companies that can help them find where drains and ditches are through maps and geographic information systems. (GIS).
At least two drainage districts – Trenkle Slough Blue Ridge Consolidated Drainage District; and DeLand Special Drainage District – overseeing drainage issues on lands that appear on the proposed Goose Creek wind map.
“We are not necessarily for or against wind turbines. We’re just trying to make sure landowners, farmers and their drainage districts are taken care of,” said DeLand area farmer Derek Trimble. “If they go through there and start ripping up the tiles, it will really have a negative effect on the drainage.”
County council members seemed willing to consider adding zoning.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said board member Todd Henricks.
Board member Shannon Carroll agreed that this should be investigated.
“I think we were lucky that DeWitt County came before us to help us through this process,” Carroll said.
County Council Chairman Ray Spencer asked zoning officer Keri Nusbaum what the next steps would be.
“You would need to send that to the ZBA for a hearing and then they would make a recommendation and you would have final approval,” Nusbaum said.
She added that it was time to put the issue on the agenda of the March 24 appeal board.
Rupiper also requested a moratorium on wind applications until the drainage amendment was added, but the council did not act on this request because it was not on the agenda.
County administrative consultant Dustin Harmon of Bellwether said he will draft an order for April addressing the county’s use of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The county plans to claim all $3.1 million of its ARPA funds as “lost revenue,” a sort of standard deduction now offered by the federal government that increases flexibility in spending those dollars.
Some county agencies, including Piatt County Transportation and the Mental Health Center, have requested to receive a portion of the funds due to lost revenue during the pandemic.
Harmon said that since all ARPA distributions will be claimed as lost earnings, the order will need to use different wording so as not to be redundant.
“The problem we had was passing an order to claim loss of earnings when you are claiming 100% of the funds, as loss of earnings is redundant. You are already claiming a shortfall.
He said distributions to county agencies will need to be tallied by those receiving them in order for a new order to be written.
“We understand and agree that transportation has lost revenue and can be restored through ARPA,” Harmon said. “Now what is this money going to be spent on? Is it a payroll shortfall to help cash flow throughout the year? We need more details in order to write this document to help spending to fill the gap.
Because the paperwork needed to award ARPA funds needs to be changed, the board rejected an agenda item to award Piatt County Transportation $110,000, the amount it lost in due to low traffic during the pandemic. Another vote with a revised order is scheduled for April.
Two small ARPA-funded projects have been approved by the county board: $7,623 to replace the server that stores property tax information; and $7,200 for cybersecurity upgrades for the sheriff’s department.
Nursing home update
Nursing home director Scott Porter said the facility currently has 75 residents and could see that number increase due to recent CNA hirings which have eased a staffing shortage he called “critical.” ” a month ago.
“Staffing is improving. We’re not there yet, but we’ve gone from a desert to a light shower in the past two weeks with five new CNA applications and two nurse applications. Before that, we might have that amount in four months,” Porter said.
“This is a great sign for us, and I hope we will be able to capitalize and retain this staff.
He added that the nursing home will begin allowing volunteers back for the first time in two years, as well as planning outdoor trips for residents, now that COVID-19 has subsided. He said there were still cases reported there, but they were all showing mild symptoms, attributing this to the vaccine.
In another discussion, council member Randy Shumard suggested the county consider a new mileage reimbursement rate for county employees, which is currently 58.5 cents per mile.
No action has been taken. Spencer said county policy is to set that rate on an annual basis, which was done at the start of the fiscal year in December.