ERIE — Those residing within the Neosho Ridge windfarm footprint are victims of circumstance, according to Stan Basler.
Representing the windfarm advisory committee, Basler was a scheduled speaker at the Jan. 17 Neosho County Commission meeting. Basler’s appearance follows a public dustup with Nic Galemore, as they feuded over the 2nd District commissioner’s responsibilities as a representative of the windfarm advisory committee. Basler contended that Galemore gave the committee the cold shoulder at every stop and was never present for a single meeting. This resulted in the role being transferred to 1st District Commissioner Paul Westhoff.
Basler mentioned that Westhoff had attended a recent meeting and was provided a firsthand view of the light show from the patio of Galesburg residents LeRoy and Cheryl Burk.
The Neosho Ridge windfarm is composed of 139 turbines, with more than 99 percent of those in the southern part of the county.
“I think (Westhoff’s) experience of sitting on the front porch in the middle of all of those lights was a different experience than watching those lights out on the horizon,” Basler said.
Westhoff agreed, saying it was “a lot different from my place.”
Having broached this topic numerous times, Basler once again reminded commissioners of his preferred remedy to the problem.
“The number one thing we can do to change life in the footprint is to change out those lights for radar-activated lights,” Basler said.
Basler has requested a legal opinion on the matter, and said that Westhoff would seek that from County Counselor Bret Heim. It was previously mentioned that a switch to radar-activated lights could approach $2 million. Both Galemore and Westhoff have said that there is zero chance that windfarm operator Liberty Utilities will foot the bill. Basler said that Galemore had previously raised the possibility of a franchise tax and wants that idea further explored.
“As I remember, the proposition that Commissioner Galemore raised was that the electricity could be taxed,” Basler said.
“The transmission rate is out of our state and out of our county,” he said, referring to the Missouri-based Liberty Utilities. “The benefit is going outside of our state.”
Heim said he was aware of the franchise tax suggestion and needed more time to research the agreement.
“Not to just look at that as the only remedy, but to see where it takes us and if it’s applicable to the windfarm,” Heim said.
Basler further suggested that the light grievance could be included the county’s potential lawsuit against Apex Clean Energy, the original developer of the windfarm.
Basler addressed the idea that residents within the footprint would not be grievance-free had they signed an agreement for the turbines like other property owners.
“That’s not true of life inside the footprint,” he said. “My neighbor was never offered a contract. We have a lot of small home tracts and I think a lot of those people were probably never offered a contract. There are a lot of victims.”
Basler painted a bleak picture of windfarm despair.
“You take those working people who found their dream homes, five acres, and are doing their mortgage as high as they can do it. It’s basically their life savings,” he said, adding that the windfarm is bringing in millions in revenue to the county. “They wanted country living and now they have noise and lights all the time.”
In an interview with The Tribune, Commissioner Gail Klaassen sympathized with those within the footprint, saying that some residents are left with dealing with the fallout from decisions that were made without their approval.
“The other landowners and ultimately the commission,” Klaassen said. “You can’t have a windfarm without landowners giving permission.”
Another remedy could come in the form of a Kansas Senate bill, as the utilities committee has previously put forth a bill addressing the issue.