Council will likely hear from wind farm reps

Culver’s town council will likely invite representatives of Florida energy company Nextera to a council meeting in the very near future, to discuss the company’s proposed project of placing 60-plus wind turbines in the Marshall and Fulton County areas.
Discussion of the project arose when audience member Patty Stallings expressed concerns over the recently-controversial project, which have included property values in the area, views of Lake Maxinkuckee affected by the turbines, and concerns over the health of those near the project.
“Their industrial, not beautiful,” said Stallings, who sits on the Culver parks and recreation board which formally voted its opposition to the project on aesthetic grounds last month. “We’re in a beautiful area -- beauty is what sells it.”
She also discussed specifics of potential property value changes which she said could result from the project, and the lack of viability of wind currents in the area.
Stallings suggested the council’s voting against the project could send a message to Marshall County officials who will vote on whether to allow it or not. Neither the council or park board have direct jurisdiction over the project, which is proposed to take place outside Culver town limits.
Council member Ed Pinder said he agreed with Stallings “wholeheartedly.”
“I’ve been to a couple of meetings and I’ve not been happy with what I hear,” he added. “These things are monstrosities. I don’t know how we’ll benefit in any way from them.”
Council president Ginny Munroe questioned who was queried in the survey Nextera conducted, which was recently referenced in an advertisement in The Culver Citizen. The company reported 77 percent of a random sampling of Marshall County residents, surveyed by phone, supported the project.
Council member Sally Ricciardi expressed amazement at the height of the turbines, which have been proposed at over 400 feet each.
“They’ll definitely show on the east side of the lake,” noted Munroe.
“The view out your window will be the wind farm,” added Ricciardi.
“The county makes the decision,” said Munroe. “But anyone in the county who expresses concern (over it), the county would consider that.”
Marshall County’s five-person Board of Zoning Appeals will ultimately make the decision to allow or disallow the project.
Council member Lynn Overmyer said she didn’t feel she knew enough about the project, and would like to hear from the company.
Town clerk Casey Howard will contact Nextera to request a representative address the council.
“I would love to have public input,” said Munroe.
Town manager search
Munroe also updated the audience on the status of the council’s summer-long search for a new town manager, which had been hoped to have been in the home stretch. She said three candidates were invited back to town for a second set of interviews, though one removed his application as he didn’t want to move to Culver. A recent executive meeting, she said, concluded no one on the council was prepared to extend an offer to either of the two remaining candidates.
“We have pulled 10 other candidates from the applicant pool we wish to interview,” she explained, adding each will be called for interviews.
Sludge cost is surprise
Council members expressed dismay at the cost of removal of sludge from the town’s sewer plant recently, a prelude to a partially grant-funded, extensive renovation of that plant.
Street department supervisor Bob Porter said the wastewater department had estimated there to be about 100 tons of sludge to remove, which would have cost around $9,500, which the council had approved at a previous meeting. Instead, nearly 600 tons of sludge was removed at a total cost of $28,080.68, an amount for which after-the-fact payment was needed.
Clerk Howard said sludge removal routinely takes place every two years and costs around $30,000 at a time. However, sludge was removed at the plant just last year. She noted the higher-than-expected amount was still considerably less than the contractor’s proposal of $50,000.
The council approved the expenditure, as the work had already been done, though it was discussed members may follow up on the matter with an executive session.
Town hall improvements
Porter also asked the council for direction on previously discussed architectural services for the town hall building, for which he had emailed members with two different quotes.
Munroe explained the proposals were for an architect to look at what was needed to address several problem areas and concerns about the building itself.
The council approved Easterday Construction’s $3,300 bid for the service.
Appointments and other actions
Among other actions, Munroe as president appointed Margaret Dehne to a vacant seat on Culver’s plan commission. No one had written to express interest in the post, and Dehne, in the audience for the meeting, said she’d been encouraged to submit a letter. She will fill one of the required seats as a Democrat for the politically balanced board.
Reappointed to Culver’s tree commission were Judy Campbell and Tom Kearns, as approved by the council.
Howard also informed the council the wastewater department had completed its jetting of the town’s sewers, totaling 31,518 feet.
During discussion of council concerns Pinder, who said he’d received some emails lately, noted, “It looks like come election time in November, we’re going to have some politics in our election in Culver. I’m the most non-political person in Culver. My politics are Culver. I don’t care what yours are, but I wish you’d vote your heart, not your (political party affiliation).
“Look what politicians have done to the United States,” he continued. “Do you want that to happen to Culver? I’m upset because in our beautiful little town, politics shouldn’t be the determining factor (in elections).”
Ricciardi expressed her agreement with Pinder’s comments.