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E.ON invites public to open house

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

E.ON, a renewable energy company based out of Chicago, is inviting Clinton County residents to an open house from 5-9 p.m. Thursday in the Edward Jones Building at the Clinton County Fairgrounds to “share facts and answer questions about wind energy in Clinton County.”

E.ON has operated the Wildcat Wind Farm in Tipton and Madison counties since 2012 and has been seeking approval of a wind farm project in Clinton County that the company says would build between 35 and 50 turbines.

“We have been in the county since 2013, and we have been working to solidify support for the project,” said Lael Eason, E.ON's director of development Midwest/Northeast Region. “There is a fair amount of support for the project. The goal is to present the project overview, address concerns and have an open dialog.

“There has been a lot of misinformation floating around about this project and wind energy in general,” Eason added. “That is another reason for the open house – to address a lot of the information that has been floating around. A lot of the info floating around is inaccurate, and we would like to correct a lot of misinformation that has been shared in the community. We would like to illustrate that there is a lot of support for the project and that there are a lot of people who would like to see the project move forward. We would like to make sure there is transparency throughout the project.”

Clinton County has had a moratorium on wind farms for about two-and-a-half years.

“We are asking that the moratorium be lifted,” Eason said. “All we are asking is to be treated like any other business that desires to do business with the county. Since coming to the county, we have spent $2 million on this project. It is a project that we believe in.

“Come out and learn more,” Eason continued. “There was an economic study that was recently conducted (by financial firm Baker Tilly).”

Based on the economic study conducted by Baker Tilly, E.ON claims on its new clintonwind.com website that, “By 2023, Clinton County will be operating with less money than it did in 2013 – in real, non-inflation dollars. In just two and a half years, if it continues business as usual, the county will face a nearly $500,000 deficit, climbing to $1.1 million by 2023.”

“The reason why we put information on our website is to raise awareness about where the county is financially and to put things into context about what we want the future of Clinton County to be,” Eason said.

Clinton County Commissioner Steve Woods says that he is open to any information, but he has not seen anything new that would sway him to lift the county's moratorium on wind farms.

“We have received a letter of request (from E.ON) to come in front of the commissioners for our next Monday meeting,” Woods said. “Unless they are going to give us any other information, I don't know if we are going to make any moves that are different than what we have already.”

If they do add E.ON to Monday's agenda, Woods says the meeting may be moved to the conference room at the new Frankfort Airport hangar.

Woods also took issue with E.ON's use of the Baker Tilly economic report as a selling point for a potential wind farm in Clinton County.

“You can paint any picture that you want, and they chose to paint a bleak picture of what the future is going to be,” Woods said. “They have not added into that picture what we are doing to the I-65 corridor to bring businesses in. I don't think they have been fair with the picture they have painted. We are working toward getting infrastructure out there now. That needs to be added to the picture, and they are not telling that to everybody. I can't speak for the other two (commissioners), but they have the same information, and I don't believe that (E.ON) has enough in the (county) council to move it through.

“They are trying to drive the issue themselves,” Woods added. “I am not going to attend the open house. I don't think that is appropriate. Maybe we will have a pretty big crowd at our meeting, which we may have to have at the airport.”

Doors open at 4:45 p.m. for Thursday's open house, and a buffet dinner will be served by Shoup's Country Foods from 5-7 p.m. The presentation will be from 6-7:30 p.m., and experts will be available for one-on-one conversations from 7:30-9 p.m.