February 18, 2020 Tuesday 9:00 am
The Bourbon County Commission met in open session with Commissioners Nick Ruhl and Lynne Oharah present. Jeff Fischer was present by phone. The County Counselor and the County Clerk were also present.
Tammy Helm with The Tribune, APEX representatives Jeff Spangler, Chris Knapp and Alan Anderson, along with Barbara Peine, Else Moss, Michael Hoyt, Kim Simons and Jody Hoener were also present for a portion of the meeting.
Lynne made a motion to go into a 5 minute executive session for personnel matters of individual non-elected personnel, Nick seconded and all approved, (the session included the Commissioners, Jim Harris and Jerad Heckman). No action was taken.
Jim Harris and Jerad Heckman reported they are doing routine maintenance around the County; they are installing culverts and hauling gravel around the County. Jim said they hauled gravel to Hackberry & 209th as well as 60th. Jim said they are waiting on a rebuilt compressor for the patcher. Jim said they are reviewing the salt purchasing agreement.
Jim said they closed the road at Range and 215th due to a bridge failure where the rock abutment collapsed; Jim said they are working with Ag Engineering and this will be fixed and open within a few days.
Lynne reported the Mayor of Uniontown requested that the County clean out the ditches at the cemetery on Maple Road just east of Uniontown.
Nick reported that an area near Range and Condensory needs gravel.
Lynne reported that George Warren suggested a rock crossing at an area near Kansas Road and Highway 3 may need an additional culvert.
Jim Harris reported he had driven the roads presented from the wind farm map; he said there are 66 metal culverts, 4 concrete culverts and 2 low water crossings in the area. Jeff reminded the Commission that the County is not responsible for getting the roads up to the required specifications for the wind farm usage, but the wind farm company is.
Justin Meeks discussed the tax sale held on 2/14/2020. He said the properties sold brought approximately $24,000. Many of the properties didn’t sell. Justin said he had met with the City of Fort Scott regarding the Land Bank prior to the sale and is still working with them. Jeff suggested they sell the unsold properties through an auction service. Justin said he would like to have a liquidation tax sale by the end of the year. Michael Hoyt said the City of Fort Scott “cherry picked” the properties considered for the Land Bank, he said the properties didn’t have guaranteed clear titles; Justin said the Land Bank did not take any properties from this tax sale, he said it is the City’s option to decide to forgive the specials on the properties. Justin said he wouldn’t guarantee personal service regarding the tax sale properties (the landowner is mailed several notifications and it’s put in the newspaper to notify them of the tax sale), therefore none of the properties could be guaranteed clear title insurance. Lynne said the sold tax sale properties get a quit claim deed. The new property owners can then do the work to try to obtain title insurance. Justin said the law prevents people that owe back taxes on their properties from bidding on their own property that is in the tax sale. Nick made a motion to publish to get bids to do title work for the next tax sale, Jeff seconded and all approved.
Jody Hoener met with the Commissioners regarding Mercy Hospital donating the hospital building to the County. Mercy closed in December of 2019. She said they invited the City of Fort Scott, the County, FSCC, the Chamber, Mental Health, FSPD, the Sheriff, the Tribune, Rehabilitation, Via Christi and CHC to a meeting in the hospital to discuss the hospital and the healthcare future. CHC liked the concept and wanted to take ownership, but didn’t. Many entities looked at the facility, but none as a single entity could take on the building. Jody said if several entities leased space in the hospital building it could increase the access to healthcare services. Jody felt the $30 million hospital could be used as an asset for healthcare. She said if the property is 75-100% occupied it could sustain it. There is 177,000 total square feet at the hospital and 122,000 square feet of leasable space. They held a meeting with future tenants of the building CHC and Via Christi; if the County took on the building we could have healthcare in our community and have access to increased services we don’t currently have. Jody said if we (the County) take the building we are taking control of our healthcare destiny and increasing access to healthcare. Jody reported that CHC, Via Christi, the City of Fort Scott, FSCC (nursing program) and counseling services are all in support. Jody said if the County accepts the building donation, Mercy has also agreed to donate $1 million to the County. There have been draft budgets done regarding the building; Jody said the $1 million donation could be used to help cover any shortfall amounts. She said due to the donated property and the $1 million donation, the County would be able to lease out space without a mortgage on the property. Jeff made a motion to allow Jody Hoener to sign the letter of intent for Via Christi, Nick seconded and all approved. Justin Meeks will review the donation agreement. Jody said they will need to form a regulatory board for the facility. Jeff Fischer said he felt that there could eventually be an economic benefit if various entities lease the space. The Commissioners all thanked Jody for the work she has done regarding Mercy donating the property.
Nick made a motion that the Commissioners are able to attend a Smart Growth America workshop on 2/26/2020, Lynne seconded and the motion passed.
Nick made a motion to go into a 7 minute executive session for consultation with an attorney for the body or agency which would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship, Lynne seconded and all approved, (the session included the Commissioners and Justin Meeks). No action was taken.
Nick made a motion to go into a 5 minute executive session for consultation with an attorney for the body or agency which would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship, Lynne seconded and all approved, (the session included the Commissioners and Justin Meeks). No action was taken.
Lynne made a motion to go into a 5 minute executive session for personnel matters of individual non-elected personnel, Nick seconded and all approved, (the session included Lynne, Nick and Kendell Mason). No action was taken.
Kevin Gleason met with the Commissioners to discuss the wind farm; also present for his presentation (that signed in) were Mary Pemberton, Anne Dare, Jason Sutterby, Barbara Peine, Kim Simons, Else Moss, Rachel Martin, Debra Martin, Kathleen Gilliland, Janet Beene, Tara Allen, Marla Koester, Rhonda Dunn and Jordan Nielson. Mr. Gleason said he was here as a concerned citizen, only representing himself, but said he felt a lot of people felt the same way as he did. He lives 4 miles southeast of Uniontown (7-8 miles from the proposed wind farm). He feels blessed to live in a County where people care and hopes someday his sons will move back to this area. He questioned if the benefits of the wind farms out-weigh the costs. He said as an agriculturist he envisions the resources as the most precious commodity. He said he had thought about the wind farms for a long time and said it would be sad if they come to Bourbon County. He said the proposed wind farm will run right through one of the last large tracts of native prairie grass. He said we were told the blades were salvageable, but he had seen an article where the blades were buried in landfills. He mentioned the wildlife effects as well as the migratory patterns near the Bourbon Allen Lake. He said he had heard reports of cows dying due to the wind farms, he didn’t know if there was any truth to this, but said he had hoped someone checked into this as well as any health concerns. He discussed wind turbines being a green energy project; he said he felt they didn’t look green to him due to what goes into building them. He said very few would gain from the wind farms, but said he had no problem with this. He said most of the landowners that will have them are friends of his. Job opportunities were mentioned in a previous meeting; he said most of the workers on the wind farms located in Moran were from out of county. Mr. Gleason said his father was a County Commissioner in Wabaunsee County when they were trying to put wind farms in there; he said he felt there was a lot of potential for corruption. He said it bothered him that neighbors are being pitted against each other; he understood that the Commissioners faced tough issues; he felt this was the biggest and would affect everyone forever if it goes through. Before Mr. Gleason asked the following questions, Lynne said the Commissioners couldn’t answer a lot of questions since legal counsel had advised them not to comment.
Are you concerned about being sued by property owners? Lynne – can’t answer
Has there been an “Official Site Review” done by KDWPT? I’m told this is a requirement and nothing was said about that at the meeting at FSCC. Lynne – can’t answer
How many turbines are being proposed? I’ve been told at least 75. – Lynne – can’t disclose
How would you feel if you were Janet Beene who has broken ground for a new home and now could potentially have a turbine very close on at least three sides? Lynne – valid concern
How much is the total 2020 Bourbon County budget? Lynne – $14,663,429
What will the PILOT being proposed and when will it begin? Lynne – can’t disclose, Mr. Gleason said he assumed the PILOT amount was small compared to the overall County budget and asked if the return was worth the cost
What is the potential benefit to schools and to which schools? – Lynne – USD 235
How many people signed the petition to stop the wind project? – Lynne – what petition, Anne Dare said the Commissioners hadn’t received the petition yet, but at that time there were 292 signatures on the petition
What are some of the other counties you’ve been in touch with and what do they say about wind energy? Lynne-we have been in touch with others & there are pro’s and con’s
What guarantee is there that the money will continue or increase? –question wasn’t discussed
What is the anticipated time schedule of events for the commissioners? Lynne – they don’t have a timetable
Tell me about the property tax calculation process after the 10-year tax abatement? Lynne- the tax value will be calculated by the appraiser. Mr. Gleason referred to a comment by Michael Bloomberg; he said after the project is depreciated and the tax abatements, the tax rate of 25% would not be much tax. Lynne discussed Linn County; he said 75% of their tax base is from power. Mr. Gleason said he hoped the County would take their time and make a well informed decision regarding the wind farms; Lynne said they are doing their due diligence. Mr. Gleason asked them to consider the environmental effects as well as the esthetic beauty of the land. He said he thought the environment is worth the fight. He said when going west he sees a tower in the far west with blinking lights, he said he can’t imagine seeing 75 sets of red lights in the southwest where currently there is only open sky.
At 11:56, Lynne made a motion to break for lunch and reconvene at 1:30, Nick seconded and all approved.
After lunch the following attended the meeting Anne Dare, Jason Sutterby, Barbara Peine, Kim Simons, Else Moss, Rachel Martin, Tyler Martin, Debra martin, Kathleen Gilliland, Jordan Nielsen, Karen Kellenberger, Nancy Van Etten, Barbara Schmidt, Brent Smith, Tim Emerson, Mike Wunderly, Ken Anderson and Reitha Clark.
Barbara Peine read a report from the Heartland Institute Freedom Rising – Wind Industry Poised for Decline, Report States. The report projected impending government decisions could soon result in a sharp decline in the expansion of wind power.
Mike Wunderly said he was against the wind farms. He presented the Commissioners with an article from the January 30, 2019 Iola Register where an additional mechanics lien of $494,000+ was placed on land where a wind farm was located. He discussed an article from Les Keikel in Indiana; the annoyances of noise, placement, setback and safety concerns of the proximity of the homes verses land to the wind towers. He discussed the various setback requirements in different areas of the country; one location in Maine had a setback requirement of more than 7,000 feet.
Tyler Martin said he lives only 2 miles from the proposed wind farm. He said his neighbor is building a home that will have wind turbines around it. He encouraged the Commissioners to consider the tax base; he said it is hard to build the tax base if people aren’t building homes in the areas of the turbines.
Tim Emerson said he was opposed to the wind farms; he had a copy of the Resolution from Anderson County regarding zoning. He said we needed zoning in Bourbon County. He discussed various articles; one article said the non-recyclable blades were being shipped to landfills, articles on wind power in Germany, an article declaring wind farms a public nuisance due to health reasons. He suggested a moratorium so studies could be done regarding the health effects. He encouraged people to view the proximity of the homes to the wind farms in Moran.
Anne Dare presented a signed petition to the Commissioners; she said they are not legal and not binding but was only to allow people to sign if they were opposed to the wind farms. She asked that they be put as public record and said the petition had 303 signatures. She said she was disappointed in February 11th evening meeting, she said they had no chance for rebuttal or follow up questions. She said the answers from APEX were vague. She didn’t feel there was any real evidence they had done anything they had asked for. She said a resident at 215th & Wagon Road could see the lights from the wind farm in Moran. She said the County needed to broaden the tax base, but asked if this was the best way to do this. She said we needed to broaden the tax base now, not in 10 years when the PILOT program ends; she said the PILOT is “piddly” money. She previously asked how the economic development director finds out about possible new industry coming to town; she was told the State informs the County of this, she suggested that someone from the County actively draw businesses to us. She questioned what money would be available to help new businesses. She said if the wind power project is completed in 2021 it would be 2031 before they were paying property taxes. She discussed Kansas magazines that she receives; she said in the magazines filled with pictures of Kansas there isn’t one picture of a wind turbine. She asked that the Commissioners do their due diligence before committing the County to something so many didn’t agree with.
Barbara Peine met with the Commissioners; she discussed the road usage agreement. Lynne previously stated that if the County didn’t sign the road usage agreement the company could use the highways; Lynne said they (APEX) will not build public roads, but will build their own access roads if needed. He said they want to use the Bourbon County roads. Anne Dare asked if the County ever told someone they couldn’t use the County roads; Lynne said how do you tell someone they can’t use the roads when there is large farm machinery that is always using the roads, he asked if we were going to single them out. Kim Simons stated APEX stated at the February 11th meeting that they wouldn’t come to Bourbon County without the road use agreement; what was actually stated was that they can come without the road use agreement, but don’t want to do that, all of their projects have a road use agreement in place.
Else Moss discussed the non-disclosure contracts between the County and APEX; Lynne said they couldn’t discuss the contracts. She questioned since tax dollars pay the County legal services could they also help those against the wind farms; Lynne said the County Counselor works for the Commissioners. Marita Meech previously suggested that the County hire a different attorney to review the wind farm contracts; Lynne said he is searching for legal assistance with the contracts and had reached out to the County insurance company KCAMP for assistance regarding the wind farm.
Anne Dare questioned what Jeff Spangler’s role with the wind farm company was; he said he was hired to be the public engagement organizer. He said his office will be in Girard and that it was his job to fact find and get correct and the most up to date information for people.
Deb Martin asked if Crawford County was zoned; Justin Meeks said parts of Crawford County are zoned. She asked if Crawford County was giving the green light regarding the wind farms; Lynne said yes.
Lynne made a motion to adjourn at 2:45, Nick seconded and all approved.
THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
OF BOURBON COUNTY, KANSAS
(ss) Lynne Oharah, Chairman
(ss) Jeff Fischer, Commissioner
(ss) Nick Ruhl, Commissioner
Kendell Mason, Bourbon County Clerk
February 25, 2020, Approved Date