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Outlet delays raise Culver council ire

October 20, 2011

PHOTO/GARY SHAFFER

Virtually unanimous frustration at last week’s meeting of Culver’s town council reflected the prevailing attitude in the Culver community at large, regarding several weeks’ delay in movement on a project originally slated to take three or four days.

Replacement of a culvert at Lake Maxinkuckee’s west shore outlet began in September, and was still underway as of the October 15 weekend, due to delays in replacing a gas line running through the area.
Audience member Mike Stallings blamed NIPSCO, whose presence was required at the site to reroute the gas line.

“This is really ridiculous,” he said, noting his construction company has four projects made difficult to reach due to the closing of West Shore Drive at the outlet. “Has anybody on the council talked to NIPSCO? We deal with NIPSCO every day guys installing gas and other utilities on our properties; there’s usually a very fast response.”
Council president Ginny Munroe said the Marshall County work crew, which is teaming up with the town on the project, has been “riding NIPSCO,” who she said did eventually arrive, informing crews it would take a week to move the gas line.

Council member Ralph Winters called the delay “one hell of an embarrassment,” and audience member Russ Mason suggested the council, county and NIPSCO should sit down together in one room and have a meeting to establish dates.

“The EMS has a lot of problems (accessing homes beyond the closure area). Somebody will pass away because they can’t get there.”
Stallings pointed out the project will still require pouring of concrete, installation of new culverts, and backfilling.
“It will be another week or two or three,” he said.

Wind farm debate raised again

For the second meeting in a row, council members were asked to take a formal position on the proposed wind farm
planned to be placed in Marshall and Fulton Counties.
Stallings discussed the potential dangers of the wind turbines, whose 400-foot-plus height would make them visible from Lake Maxinkuckee and the town of Culver.

Acknowledging there are “pros and cons” to the issue, Stallings argued the project would affect the town of Culver.

“We’ve got a very, very unique spot here (in Culver),” he added. “This town, I think, is flourishing. The issue (is), what kind of impact these will have? Nextera (the company sponsoring the project) says you can’t prove that; I say, prove these will make money without government subsidies.”

Audience member Grant Munroe said a petition against the project has over 1,200 signatures from area residents; Stallings noted Culver has only 1,400 residents.

“You five (council members) have been elected to represent the people of Culver. If you’re not going to take a stand, I think that’s fine. I would like to see a vote; I would like to see each of you state your feelings and the reasons why.”

Council member Lynn Overmyer said a vote would reflect each member’s personal feelings and not necessarily represent the opinions of the town. She also noted the project is outside Culver’s limits and thus not within the council’s jurisdiction.

“I think people, by signing this (petition), have given you what they feel,” she added.

Stallings replied that the project is close enough to affect the town, and suggested Overmyer could “just vote (that you’re) present” rather than voting for or against the project.

Mason, in the audience, argued the only affect the project would have on the town of Culver is in the area of visibility, since the noise levels and other problems cited won’t directly impact townspeople.
Audience member Margaret Dehne said she felt the council was being put into a bad position, and no member can “state what the rest of the town feels like; you only can give you own opinion.”

“But I think we’re always put on the spot,” said Munroe. “With town-wide trash service, when people say, ‘My neighbor did this of that.’ These are citizens coming to us with what they think is a city issue. We can debate that all day long.”

Council member Sally Ricciardi, noting her personal opinion is that the towers are “ugly,” said she’s not sure if the matter is a council issue either.

“It’s true that, other than the view, they don’t actually affect Culver. But Culver is a resort area, and a lot of the draw is because it’s a beautiful area. Anything that makes it less beautiful affects us all.”

Council member Ed Pinder reasserted opinions expressed at prior meetings.

“I hate them,” he said. “If we have a petition from the people in town...that tells us this is what the majority of people in town want, then we should take a position. If they voted for us, I guess we should do what they’re asking us to do.”

Winters raised questions as to whether recently-circulated photos of Lake Winnebego in Wisconsin -- which suggest a major impact from the towers on the view of the lake shore -- have been digitally altered. He reiterated Mason’s point that the noise factor from the towers is negligible, and added the “flashing lights” from atop the towers would become “as ordinary as the lights on top all the water and communication towers.

“Not that it makes it right,” he added, “but we’re subsidizing a...lot of things. In many cases, if not for initial development subsidies, many answers wouldn’t be found. Many industries require to get them off the ground.”

Overmyer said the matter is “causing a rift” between friends and neighbors in the area.

Grant Munroe asked if the project is “something that’s good for 50 people (land owners profiting from tower placement on their property), but isn’t good for 1,300.”

“For enough money,” Stallings said, “almost anyone can be bought.”
“Including the county,” added Ginny Munroe.

“I think any issue that comes in this door belongs to us,” she said. “We are a piece of the county. I think other organizations have said what they think. People want to know what we think...we make decisions and get put on the spot all the time. It’s not easy to do. We have to do it with other issues.”

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