GREG LOWER

ERIE – Debate continued Friday at the Neosho County Commission meeting between opponents and supporters of the proposed Neosho Ridge wind energy project.

As many as two dozen people attended and discussed the project for about 2 ½ hours. Some opponents said Apex Clean Energy, the company developing the project, was not forthcoming with information or was misleading.

Opponent Dustie Elsworth said efforts have started for a petition against the project, including among residents near Stark. The Neosho Ridge project is proposed for southwest Neosho County in the area near Thayer, Erie and Galesburg, while the Jayhawk wind energy project is proposed for southwest Bourbon and northwest Crawford counties, with some landowners in northeast Neosho County.

Apex representatives have said they have not determined how many wind turbines could be installed, or where the sites would be. Elsworth said the company has planned sites for 121 turbines on an application to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Apex representative Juliana Pianelli said the application was not a final array, which would be done and submitted later. She responded to Elsworth’s comments and later to questions from Commissioner David Bideau.

Opponent Leroy Burke provided handouts to commissioners about the project, and said Apex’s publications included a disclaimer. He called some of the company’s information “flagrantly a lie.”

Martha Hizey, Neosho County landowner, said wind projects that begin tax-exempt would remain so.

“We are not anti-wind,” she said, but she noted that the project needed to be in a less-populated area. She described one area with a wind farm as desolate.

Opponent David Burnett said he had an issue with the length of time Apex took to pay for the purchase of a goat from his daughter at a 4-H sale.

Ron Vyhlidal spoke in support of the project and mentioned pollution from coal and natural gas, both resources that will run out.

Supporter Carl Brungardt provided printed endorsements of wind energy, including from the Kansas Sierra Club and Kansas Corporation Commission.

In her later response, Pianelli compared the number of bird fatalities from wind energy with numbers by cats, buildings and cars. She also said organizers hope to schedule a tour of wind energy projects for Oct. 24.

In other business Friday, Bob Kauffman with the Neosho County Area Agency on Aging requested a one-time $5,000 boost in funding after expenses that included new roofs for buildings in Erie and Chanute. The agency has a budget of $62,000 for 2019.

The commission opened two bids for road salt, which were turned over to Road and Bridge Director Mike Brown for a recommendation.

Commissioners also met with Foley Equipment sales representative Archie Moffet to begin discussion on replacing a road grader.

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