Marion County commissioners could soon be looking at wind turbines going up in the northern third of the county when Tradewind Energy starts building.
Known as the Diamond Vista Wind Project, multiple landowners are invited to a public hearing to consider a conditional-use permit hearing set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the Marion Community Center ballroom, 203 N. Third St.
The number of wind turbines is estimated to be 150, according to the commission, which said the public meeting is the first step in the process.
Commission chairman Randy Dallke said: “We haven’t had any wind farms yet, and this will be more of a workload.”
Commissioner Kent Becker said the county would be remiss in not getting a third-party engineer.
Tanner Yost, project manager with Kirkham Michael at Ellsworth, said he wanted to talk about a service proposal regarding wind turbines.
“We’ve been helping a lot of wind farms down in southwest Kansas by doing, pre- and post-inspections, structural evaluations of the roads for wind farm construction,” he said.
“Kansas is lacking on the transmission and we have a lot of projects being proposed but can’t get it out of the state,” he added.
Kirk and Michael can act as the third-part consultant, he explained.
In addition, he brought an example of what they can do.
“With the pre-inspection we go out and pre-inspect, the roads driving about 10 mph,” he said. “We also have an inspector get out every 10 to 12 miles. He stops and takes pictures, and we measure width of road and whether there is gravel on it.”
They will document condition of the roads and stop at each of hydraulic structures, bridges, and again condition of those, he said.
The concern is the heavy traffic that can collapse certain areas, Yost said.
“We also ask what is the load rate—bridges with wind-farm trucks? We will then go to the developer and ask them to give us trucks with axle diagrams, and then look at rate of each structure with that truck,” he said.
Once the job is completed, Kirkham Michael will return for the post-inspection, he said.
“Tradewind just got done doing work in Clark County, looking at three phases with each phase having 200 towers with the last phase built this spring,” he said. “Tradewind Energy then sells (the project) to another developer and then they take the reins and hire a contractor.”
In some cases, people have hired a full-time inspector to watch the roads and catch problems right away.
“It took a lot of pressure off the Road and Bridge supervisor,” he said.
In one situation, a truck was hauling a turbine down a road after it had been raining, Yost said, and the roads ended up with huge ruts.
Rather than call the road supervisor, the inspector was called and dealt with the problem, he said.
“We do have a policy–we put this out for bids, but I see you guys have experience in it,” Dallke said.
Yost agreed, adding some counties ask for more than others when it comes to an inspector.
As for the agreement, Yost offered suggestions on what the commission should consider when talking with Tradewind Energy or others.
“Make sure to know what routes they are proposing to use, and look at those and make sure those are the routes being used,” Yost said. “One reason they might not want to use a route could be because of the cost.”
An escrow fund is another important part of the county’s agreement with Tradewind, he said.
“Typically, if the county uses a large amount of asphalt, the amount could range from $500,000 to $1 million.
“And the other part to consider is the third party selection because sometimes (Tradewind) would want to use their own firm.
“It’s better to use an inspector familiar with Kansas roads,” he said.
Dallke said, looking at the map, the area is about 25 miles long and five to six miles wide, which is the length of the wind farm coming in.
Commissioners heard from Robson regarding the Academy of Model Aeronautics, and members being the only ones able to fly model airplanes at the lake airstrip.
She said the group would like to name the location for flying the planes Lakeview RC Airport, and the county would be responsible for putting up the signs.
Dallke said he wondered what would happen if someone called local officials with a complaint.
Robson said: “Anyone flying these remote control airplanes has to be a member of the AMA and follow all the rules within the hours set by the AMA.”
One “rumor” that’s been circulating is that the airstrip for the model airplanes is too close to the municipal airport.
Becker said he believes the first step would be in sending a letter to the local airport association. The vote was 2-0 with Novak absent.
Salem Home utilities
Commissioners approved paying Salem Home utilities based on a breakdown they decided on after hearing about Robson’s conversation with Jared Jost, board president at Salem.
The breakdown the commission agreed to pay will be $75 a month for sewer and water, 25 percent of the total gas bill and only the meter reading for electricity.
In other business
In other business, commissioners:
• reviewed a copy of the community corrections bylaws for the 8th Judicial District of Kansas. Robson said the new bylaws are an interlocal agreement with more oversight and adding more commissioners.
Evan Yoder of Hillsboro is one of the current representatives, Robson said, and needs to be reappointed.
• heard Bryan Metz, superintendent of the Marion County Park and Lake, report the annual Chili Cook-Off was a success with 12 chili vendors participating, the car show and a good turnout.
After bills and advertising, Metz said it appears about $1,700 will be available to the fund lake improvements.
• heard Becker asked Metz about the grass being cut so short at the lake. Metz said there was a wedding with a request that grass in the area be cut shorter than usual.
“It was a good-sized area—about an acre,” Becker said. “Did (anybody) compensate the lake for any of that extra mowing?”
After only finding out Friday about the wedding, Metz said he went ahead and had it done.
“Maybe in the future when someone requests something that will cause extra work, we should ask for a donation,” Becker said.
• heard Jesse Hamm, Road and Bridge director, say the work started Monday at 330th Road, near Tampa.
Dallke asked about the one-half mile east of the interstate. Hamm said work was started on substantial bridges on the other side of the Marion County line.