An Almer Township resident took two Tuscola County commissioners to task for their comments about wind-turbine debates among residents of Almer and Ellington townships, criticizing one commissioner’s reference that the situation resembles the “Hatfields and McCoys” and hurts the county financially.
Almer Township resident Jan Daniels told commissioners at their 8 a.m. Thursday meeting that she read an article that morning from Wednesday’s Advertiser — a report including comments from commissioners Kim Vaughan and Craig Kirkpatrick — and “was so taken aback that I hopped in the car” and drove to Thursday morning’s meeting.
During commissioners’ committee of the whole meeting Monday, Vaughan — representing the county’s 3rd District — likened the sometimes contentious debate over the impact of 500-foot wind turbines on a community to that between the “Hatfields and McCoys.”
Kirkpatrick, 4th District, said at the Monday meeting that he “has sat under wind turbines on a number of occasions, and I suppose if they malfunction they might make some noise, but I don’t hear it … yet we hear how terribly noisy they are.”
At Thursday morning’s board meeting, though, Daniels addressed such remarks.
“When you make comments that this is like a ‘Hatfield and McCoy’ situation, I take issue with that,” Daniels said. “I’m just surprised that a commissioner makes that kind of a comment. This is a serious issue.
“And to say that people are just complaining because ‘I sat under the turbine and I didn’t hear any noise — somebody’s not informed.’ We’ve spent a lot of time on this thing. A lot of people have spent a lot of time.”
Last week, the Almer Township Board of Trustees denied applicant NextEra Energy Resources L.L.C.’s application for a special land use permit for a project called Tuscola III Wind Energy Center.
Daniels said that if county commissioners are going to comment about wind-turbine issues in Almer and Ellington townships, “they need to bring themselves up to speed on what’s going on.”
“I was at the planning commission meeting for Almer Township when we turned down the application that NextEra had made for their wind ordinance,” Daniels said. “(Planning commission members) gave good and solid reasons why they turned that down.
“They turned it down because the application had not met the ordinance. That seems pretty reasonable to me. It doesn’t sound like something that somebody is just arguing with someone and doesn’t want to bring revenue into the county.”
The comments from Vaughan and Kirkpatrick came at the Monday committee meeting during a presentation by Tuscola County Controller Mike Hoagland, who outlined the need to reduce the county’s dependence on wind turbine tax revenue — especially in light of questions over the future of wind turbine projects in the county.
Vaughan and Kirkpatrick put any potential lost revenue directly on those who have effectively slowed and/or stopped wind turbine projects in Tuscola County.
“I think a lot of these townships’ problem is, people just don’t get along,” Vaughan said. “I got a township … no matter what that township supervisor says, they don’t like it. No matter what. He’d say ‘We aren’t taxing anybody this year,’ and they’d find something wrong with it.” (Listen to the audio clip below, story continues underneath it.)
During the Monday meeting, Kirkpatrick pounced on those who have spent more than a year working to ensure future wind projects put what they have identified as health, safety and welfare above all else.
Kirkpatrick questioned why a wind turbine project was accepted so easily in Columbia Township (Cross Winds III) and has faced such challenges in Almer and Ellington townships (Tuscola III).
As The Advertiser reported in September, Tuscola County Register of Deeds records showed that before November, six Columbia Township officials representing the public — three on the township board, three on the planning commission — held wind leases with Consumers Energy, which proposes a wind-turbine project in the township.
In response to Daniels’ remarks on Thursday, Vaughan said the comment about the Hatfields and McCoys was “taken out of context” by an Advertiser reporter.
“On that article, there was three or four separate conversations that were rolled into one,” Vaughan said. “The Hatfield and McCoy comment had nothing to do with our talk on wind energy. We were just talking about other things in general.”
It’s unclear what “three or four separate conversations” Vaughan was referring to since the topic on the table hadn’t changed from the impact of wind turbine revenue on Tuscola County. An audio clip of the “Hatfields and McCoys” comment can be found at http://tinyurl.com/j29w2rs
Kirkpatrick, who participated at Thursday’s meeting via computer video and audio from another location, didn’t comment on Daniels’ remarks.
“We’re not against the people out in the townships that want the windmills, or don’t want the windmills,” Vaughan told Daniels. “That’s their decision. We’ll try to help … the best we can, from where we stand, but that is not the case at all. Anybody that thinks that was, I apologize, because that is not the intent of this board at all.”
Vaughan said commissioners “were talking about just different things that townships in general — you know, how some people, at townships — we weren’t talking about (Almer and Ellington) townships in particular.”
Almer Township Supervisor Jim Mantey also spoke at Thursday’s commissioner meeting, thanking Commissioner Thom Bardwell, 2nd District, for attending an Almer Township public meeting. Mantey also praised members of the Almer Township Planning Commission.
“They have worked tirelessly on this issue and have lots of work ahead of them yet,” Mantey said. “We have their engagement, we want economic development in Almer Township, we thank you for your attendance.
“We welcome — we’ll save you front-row tickets for any of the other commissioners who would like to attend our meetings — and we want to move forward for the good of Almer Township, and the good of Tuscola County.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org