Culver councilman alleges wind turbine photos mislead - owner defends

A few weeks ago, Culver resident Hank Bilsland defended photographs he’d commissioned of wind turbines placed at Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin following a suggestion by Culver town council member Ralph Winters that the photos could have been digitally enhanced to give the turbines a more ominous appearance. At last week’s regular town council meeting, Winters revisited the debate with a set of photographs he’d taken himself at the same site, accompanied by wife Barbara on what he called a “road trip” the two recent undertook to the Wisconsin site.

“I don’t have cameras as good as a professional person,” Winters said as he distributed copies of the photos to council members, “but I took pictures from the west side of (Lake Winnebago) across to the east. You have to strain your eyes to see the windmills on the east side of the lake. When you zoom in, you can see the windmills then, but nothing like that absolutely gross, total misrepresentation of the windmills that has been passed around in this community, and which a gentleman was quite insulted when I insinuated they’d been Photo-shopped.”

Winters added a reference to a comment made in an earlier council meeting suggesting the turbines could have an adverse affect on dairy production.

“There must be a hell of a demand for artificial buttermilk,” he said, distributing another photo of a confinement dairy operation with windmills “500 feet behind the (dairy) building.

“There are a lot of legitimate reasons to not want the windmills in the community. I respect that (though) I don’t agree. But to do just totally out of reason exaggerations with that...photo that’s been passed around this community as to what they’ll look like -- it’s unbelievable that people are stooping to that level.”

He added a story of “two old guys” sitting in a restaurant where Winters and his wife ate, who told the couple that “two years ago, the windmills spun so fast they sucked 18 inches off the lake...they had to go to Minnesota find Paul Bunyan and Babe the ox to fix it. They had straight faces when they told us that.”

Winters did concede that, driving home from the site, he “found the lights (on the turbines) at night quite distracting. That’s something else.”

The Citizen was contacted by Hank Bilsland of Culver, who refutes Winters' suggestion the photos have been digitally enhanced to create an artificial impression.

Bilsland telephoned photographer Max Hermans, he says, to once again verify the authenticity of the photo, which he says Hermans took -- as commissioned by Bilsland, August 10, 2011 from the town of Van Dyne, Wisconsin, using a Canon 50D and used a 70-200mm lens.

The key factor differentiating the two photos, Bilsland suggests, is the layout of the two lakes. While Maxinkuckee is approximately 1,864 acres and around one by two miles, Winnebago is 30 by 10 miles with a 137,708 acre surface area. Winnebago tapers at its south end, near Fond du Loc, while Osh Kosh is nearest the center of the lake.

The Hermans photo, Bilsland says, was taken at a point at which the distance from shore to shore is six miles. The wind turbines are two to three miles from the shore. The photo was specifically commissioned to be taken at a total distance of around eight miles, to create a comparable visual effect to the distance from Maxinkuckee's shores to the nearest wind turbine here, as understood by way of sponsoring company Next Era's public statements. Should photos be taken at a point elsewhere on Lake Winnebago, particulary north of Fond du Loc, the lake may be 10 miles across, so counting the two to three miles additional distance of the turbines, "you're looking at a (photo of a) 12 to 13 mile distance," something Bilsland believes may be the case in Winters' photos.

Hermans did use computer software program Photoshop adjust the color and remove dust specks on the lens, Bilsland says, though nothing was otherwise altered.

Bilsland's photo may be viewed here:
http://www.thepilotnews.com/content/wind-turbines-lake-winnebago-max-her...

Winters' photos may be viewed here:
http://www.thepilotnews.com/content/wind-turbines-lake-winnebago-photo-1...

And here (second Winters photo):
http://www.thepilotnews.com/content/wind-turbines-lake-winnebago-photo-2...

In other discussion, council member Ed Pinder, the only incumbent besides council president Ginny Munroe to be reelected in last month’s elections, told the council and audience he had initially declined to comment on his victory to The Culver Citizen, “because I was too upset at the time, but I do have a comment now.”

Pinder then read a written statement (printed in full, at his request, in this week's edition of the Culver Citizen as a letter to the editor), which pertained to written materials distributed in Culver criticizing Howard in particular. He said “hardball” tactics employed in those writings weren’t reflective of Culver’s values, and did a disservice to both Winters’ and Howard’s work and reputations.

Audience member Russ Mason added, “I think the real shame on this is they’re (those disseminating materials attacking Howard) anonymous.”
“What bothers me,” added Pinder, “is these are people I thought of us as friends. Now I don’t know what I think about them.”

During the public input portion of the meeting, resident Mickey McFarland asked about a citation he received recently for a dog running at large.

Munroe read from the Oct. 21 police report that an officer found the dog running at large on South Ohio Street, where “multiple complaints” had been received about the dog. Finding the dog’s owner not at home, the office left the citation, which calls for a $15 fine, at the door of the home.

McFarland argued he didn’t allow the dog to run loose, but rather she broke loose, and asked if the police had “nothing better to do than chase dogs around.”

Munroe said someone has to take responsibility for the pet, which falls on the animal’s owner.

During department head reports, Culver fire chief Mike Grover discussed hopes for an item his department sought to purchase some months ago, an ice boat usable for rescues on frozen Lake Maxinkuckee. The department, he said, has “really watched our budget” over the past year in hopes of purchasing the $60,000 machine.

“I think we’ll be okay,” added Grover, noting the Township would pay for half of the cost of the item.

“We can always find financing somewhere,” he said.

Culver EMS director Chuck Dilts said 800 MHz radios have been ordered for his department, bringing it into communications conformity with other emergency departments in the town and county. The radios, he noted, should arrive by the end of the year.

Town clerk Howard asked for approval for the town employees’ annual Christmas party, at which no tax dollars are spent, she noted.