Tama Co. Against Turbines returns to supervisors’ agenda, demands action
After being told during the May 23 Tama County Board of Supervisors meeting that their coalition would no longer be allowed on the board’s agenda, Tama County Against Turbines showed up on the May 31 agenda – attending the meeting in full force.
The meeting started off with Tama County resident Rita Dostal telling the board about Salt Creek speaking to her about putting wind turbines on her land.
“Salt Creek have asked me twice, I’ve turned them down twice. If they contact me again I’m going to my lawyer for harassment,” Dostal said.
Dostal asked Salt Creek if they could tell her where the wind turbines would be going, to which Salt Creek told Dostal that they could not tell her that.
“If [Salt Creek comes] on my land or come near me again, I’m going to call the police for trespassing on my land,” said Dostal.
After her comments, coalition leaders John Winkelpleck and Richard Arp – both fourth-generation land owners – took over the questions for the board.
Arp began by asking if the board would take another look at and adjust the wind energy ordinances that the county has in place that were reaffirmed last week.
Supervisor Larry Vest answered, “Same as last week, I have no comment.”
Winkelpleck brought forth the next action item: “We are formally requesting that you as supervisors take a vote to initiate a moratorium on the approval of any future industrial wind projects. The moratorium would place a pause on the approval of any future wind projects or repowering of them of anything beyond Salt Creek phase one. If not, why?”
Vest’s answer remained the same: “No comment.”
Arp took over for the third action item: “We are requesting for the county board of adjustment to not issue anymore special conditional use permits that might allow industrial wind turbines to be placed on agricultural land.”
Winkelpleck continued to the fourth action item before the board answered: “The fourth action item is for the county staff to actually monitor and enforce compliance with all areas of the county’s existing wind energy conversion system ordinance, starting today. Despite the many gaps in the current ordinance language, we are asking the county to begin the process of monitoring and enforcing what is the current ordinance.”
Winkelpleck continued to add that in the future the ordinance needs more comprehensive language in order to be better enforced for wind projects in the future.
Next Arp brought up one of the recurring questions that the coalition has had in the fifth action item being that the staff responsible for enforcing these ordinances work with the Tama County Sheriff’s Office to make sure that the turbines do not interfere with the county’s new emergency communication system.
“To do that the county staff responsible for accepting applications for wind projects, or phases of them, need to verify before any applications are considered or approved that the application includes the exact total turbine height with the blades fully extended for each specific proposed turbine and location,” Arp said.
Winkelpleck added, “If that specific information for each turbine is not included in the application, the application needs to be denied until that information is applied in full.”
The sixth and final request by the coalition was that the full and complete minutes of each board of supervisors’ working sessions be published to the website.
Winkelpleck repeated the sixth action item once again, after which Arp asked the board what their next steps would be in regards to these items.
“No comment,” Vest responded.
This response drew ire from Dostal who asked what the reason could be for not providing any comments.
“That’s not an answer. There’s a reason why you’re saying no comment, are you scared? Bought out? Scared to be sued? What are they?” Dostal asked.
“Hopefully you can hear us in the back because it seems like this has passed over deaf ears when we’ve talked about a lawsuit, the very strong possibility of one,” Vest said. “Should we do the things that are being requested of this group from the beginning, which was a moratorium and the change of ordinances. Now, I got this information that I’m about to give to you from Kurt Boerm who has a lot of knowledge on the subject. Salt Creek has invested at this point $12-15 million. If we do either of those things we have been informed that we will be sued. Our current debt is around $15 million. Do we want to double our debt?”
Winkelpleck expressed his distaste in using Boerm – one of six Tama County landowners comprising the landowners association that helped drive the Salt Creek Wind Farm project locally – for information on Salt Creek, then assured the board that they would see them on Monday, June 6, for the next supervisors’ meeting.
June 6 public comment policy discussion
The Monday, June 6, board of supervisors meeting was held in the Tama County Courthouse rather than in the Administration Building’s board room in an apparent effort to increase safety and security. Since late April, the board room has been filled to capacity during most Monday meetings.
As part of the June 6 meeting, an agenda item titled ‘Adopt/Approve public comment policy’ was included to maintain timeliness in meetings – seemingly in reference to the increase in public comments that have been received since Tama County Against Turbines began regularly attending board meetings in late April.
The new policy was drafted ahead of the meeting as follows: “The Board of Supervisors welcomes comments from the public during the “Public Comments” time at the beginning of the meeting. You are requested to approach the microphone, if available, state your name for the record and limit the time used to present your remarks in order that others may be given the opportunity to speak. You are allowed to record, tape and photograph any open session.”
No action was taken, however, and the item was tabled/pushed back to next week’s meeting set for Monday, June 13, in order to make further changes to the draft policy.