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  • Last modified 31 days ago (July 24, 2019)

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Commission gets windy - again

Staff writer

What seemed to be a rare moment of agreement among county commissioners over wind farms proved as fickle as a flittering breeze Monday.

A week after commissioner Randy Dallke raised concerns about how to proceed with future wind farms, commissioner Dianne Novak used the opportunity to heap sometimes saccharine praise on him.

“Actually, it caught me a little bit off guard,” she said, “in part because it was too little and too late, but I’ve since found that that’s not the case. It’s not too little and it’s not too late.”

After thanking Dallke for raising his questions and for what she termed his “kindness” — which, she said, still had her “a bit shaken” — she reintroduced a previously drafted resolution imposing a moratorium on future wind farm development.

The proposal, which commissioners earlier decided not to enact, would affect only new developments, not Expedition Wind in the south nor Diamond Vista in the north.

Enacting the moratorium, Novak said, “would be the appropriate thing to do, if you’re sincere about your concerns — and I’m assuming that you were; you sounded very sincere to me.”

Concerns about wind farm development would be sent back to the county’s planning and zoning commission, with instructions to report back to commissioners.

Dallke seemed at least somewhat receptive but indicated he wanted to confer with the county’s attorneys first.

“I just want to take a step that’s the correct step,” he said. “I don’t want to be out on the limb. I think you have to have exactly what we want to

accomplish with that moratorium before we set it.”

Commission chairman Kent Becker, while not endorsing a moratorium, agreed.

“You’re going to have to be very specific with planning and zoning on what you’re requiring,” he said. “You can’t just go to planning and zoning and say we need to look at this. I think it’s going to have to be very specific.”

Novak disagreed, but Becker countered: “If planning and zoning gets this back in their lap, I think they’re going to think, what are we going to do with it.”

County clerk Tina Spencer interceded, suggesting this might be a topic best discussed as part of a future agenda item, when attorneys could be present.

Novak then asked Becker: “You have no concerns with it at all, Kent, about the future of Marion (County) as far as wind turbines?”

Becker replied: “I’m sure that there are areas in there that probably could be tweaked, but my belief is that we had a fairly strong document to start with.”

Dallke suggested residents might need to become more involved in discussing regulations in advance of actual proposals for wind farms surfacing.

He said learning more about what neighbors are experiencing with Diamond Vista and may experience with Expedition Wind might be helpful.

He suggested bringing the planning and zoning chairman to the future meeting that Spencer suggested.

A similar intercession by Spencer appeared to end an earlier exchange after Dallke questioned whether country treasurer Jeannine Bateman had corrected lapses noted in an auditor’s report regarding banks that hold county deposits completing required paperwork.

She said no new lapses had been noted.

Becker asked whether two employees were now reviewing each account to prevent future lapses.

“Would it be wise to have dual responsibility on that?” he asked. “I mean, things can slip, you know. They can. But I mean, if you had another department head, assistant treasurer, whatever. . . . Dual controls are good in the day and age in which we live — having another set of eyes on it.”

Bateman responded that a single employee generally was responsible for this area.

Becker asked whether the commission should look at the question as a matter of policy.

Novak quickly interjected: “I think that she is an elected official, and I think she can run her department the way she sees fit. I think we need to stop right there and let her run her department.”

Bateman said she would take Becker’s suggestion under advicement.

“Just a recommendation,” he responded.

But Dallke, referencing a previous illness that had kept Bateman off the job, chimed in: “It may be, but when we’ve had health problems, we haven’t covered the issues, so we’ve got to have a plan to do something.”

Novak replied: “I think that’s her problem.”

Dallke interrupted: “It’s the county’s money. And I think we’re concerned about the county’s money.”

Novak replied: “I understand that, but you can apply that to any county department there is that has elected officials, and we have to give them all the same respect.”

Spencer then suggested that this might be something commissioners would want to discuss with the county’s new auditors.

“They seemed to be pleased with the way we were doing things,” Bateman said, with most commissioners nodding in agreement.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

  • Promoted deputy sheriff Travis Wilson to sergeant, with a 0.8% raise.
  • Approved a $5,556 sign trailer from Jost Fabricating for the road and bridges department.
  • Purchased a $2,645.35 desk for county attorney Joel Ensey.
  • Gave several seniority raises, including one to part-timer Catelyn Christensen in Ensey’s office despite Novak’s concern that Christensen’s mother also works in the office.

Both report directly to Ensey or his office manager, so there is no violation of the county’s anti-nepotism policy, Spencer said.

But Novak responded: “I think under new laws counties are trying to get away from that. . . . I do have an issue with this. . . . I’m uncomfortable with it.”

Last modified July 24, 2019

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