PAXTON — The Ford County Board voted 8-3 Monday night to disburse the entire balance in an escrow account to EDF Renewables, the firm that owns the Kelly Creek Wind Farm in northern Ford County.
County Highway Engineer Greg Perkinson said township officials have also signed off on returning the nearly $2.8 million in the account to the company based in San Diego, Calif.
The return of the funds follows the recent settlement of a long-standing dispute over the adequacy of road repairs made following the wind farm’s construction. Rogers Township in northern Ford County and Norton Township in southwestern Kankakee County had been working to resolve the situation since shortly after the 92-turbine, 184-megawatt wind farm was put into commercial operation in December 2016.
Perkinson said Monday that the company has met all of the requirements the county had imposed to restore the roads in the wind farm’s footprint.
Some board members expressed reservations, however, that the county now has no leverage over the company. Some residents in the Kempton area are still experiencing problems with television and Internet reception.
Voting against the release of the funds were board members Tim Nuss of rural Roberts, Cindy Ihrke of rural Roberts and Ann Ihrke of rural Buckley.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
➜ Sheriff Mark Doran reported to the board about a recent meeting of the state sheriffs’ organization. Doran said the group was greeted with a letter from Attorney General Kwame Raoul threatening to “jail any sheriff who cooperates with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents” because of Illinois’ sanctuary state law. Doran said the group, by a wide majority, passed a resolution saying that sheriffs would oppose in court any attempt by Raoul to follow through on his threat.
➜ Doran addressed the upcoming legalization of recreational cannabis. “This has opened up a Pandora’s Box,” Doran said. Doran said there is no road test to determine if a driver is under the influence of cannabis. A blood test is required to determine the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. Doran and Circuit Clerk Kim Evans both said that under the new law, expungements of Illinois residents’ prior marijuana convictions will provide challenges for the county. “It will be a big headache for this office,” Evans said.
➜ The board voted to raise the salary of public defender Harvey Welch to $121,107. Welch was due to receive the raise because his salary must reflect 90 percent of the salary of State’s Attorney Andrew Killian, who earlier received a raise. The state covers 67 percent of the public defender’s salary.
➜ The board agreed to hire a full-time employee to fill a vacancy in the treasurer’s office.
➜ The board accepted the donation of a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car from the sheriff’s department for use by Ford County Emergency Management Agency Director Terry Whitebird.
➜ The board concurred with Doran’s nomination of Danielle Borders to fill a seat on the Ford County Sheriff’s Merit Commission. Borders’ term expires Nov. 30, 2025.
➜ Treasurer Krisha Shoemaker said her office had been busy collecting property taxes. The first payment deadline is Friday. Shoemaker said she hopes to disburse tax revenue to taxing entities well before the 30-day deadline from Friday.
➜ Board member Tom McQuinn of rural Paxton said labor union negotiations continue, and the next meeting is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 20.
➜ McQuinn scheduled a personnel committee meeting for 7 p.m. Aug. 22 in the small courtorom on the first floor of the courthouse.
➜ A meeting of the board’s zoning committee was set for 6 p.m. Aug. 19 in the board meeting room in the jail’s basement. The committee will continue its review of proposed changes to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms.
➜ Resident Emily Lattz expressed several concerns. She said she wants to see progress made on creating a comprehensive plan for Ford County. She said it should reflect how larger communities like Gibson City will be enabled to grow. She also asked about a resolution of residents’ complaints regarding the Kelly Creek Wind Farm, as well as 12 complaints about the much older Pioneer Trail Wind Farm north and east of Paxton that were never resolved, according to her research. She said she wants to see strong conflict-resolution guidelines included in the new wind farm ordinance.
➜ The board learned from its highway committee that the committee did not accept the sole bid it received for the repaving of Pit Road south of Paxton. Cross Construction’s bid came in at $982,524 — $170,000 over the engineering estimate. The committee will rebid the project next spring in hopes of a better bidding climate.