County Mayor says voters should decide on wind farm
By Logan Watson
Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon gave members of the Milan Rotary Club a rundown of the county’s current business last Thursday, but no topic was more controversial than that of the proposed Wind Farm in the northern area of the county. The vote on zoning for the site, a 16,000-acre area of land between Kenton and Yorkville, was tabled earlier this month by the County Commission, but residents and county officials are still discussing the matter.
“The windmills are the big talk in the county,” said Mayor Witherspoon, who said he and other county officials are still weighing the pros and cons of the project. “Everybody is for clean energy and revenues, but everyone may not be in favor of a big windmill in their backyard.” Witherspoon told the group that the funds coming in from the sale of the energy provided by the wind farm could total $600,000 per year and fund the $1.3M debt on the new South Gibson Elementary School, but he is concerned with how it might affect the people who will live in its shadow.
Mayor Witherspoon stated that a recent trip to visit a similar location in California’s Coachella Valley was productive, and many residents in the area had no major complaints against the 600-foot turbines in their area.
“We want to get as much info from these people as we can,” Witherspoon said of the Apex Clean Energy firm, which proposed the Volunteer Wind energy project. “We want to keep an open mind, but we’re still far from the windmills going up.”
According to Mayor Witherspoon, the project has about 50 percent support from those it will affect, with several local residents already signing leases with the company, but he says the county will need much more definitive support than that to enter into a partnership.
“We will want an iron-clad contract with the company,” said Witherspoon. “We want to make sure we are protected if this company goes away in the future.”
Mayor Witherspoon told the group that the project is still in the early phases, with more hearings from the county’s Zoning Board coming in the near future, but he feels that the residents should have the final say in the matter.
“A referendum is the fairest way to do it,” said Mayor Witherspoon.