Blowin’ in the windDouglas County commissioners reviewed an Osakis wind turbine decision and HRA levy request at their August 28 meeting.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
An air of discontent blew into the Commissioner’s Room at the Douglas County Courthouse Tuesday as concerns were vented over a proposed wind tower to be erected in Osakis.
The Douglas County Planning Commission approved property owner Barbara Trisco’s request to add the tower, with conditions, at its August 15 meeting, however, new information was presented at the August 28 county board meeting and the commissioners then sent the permit request back to the Planning Commission for further review.
Trisco owns property in section 23 of Osakis Township, in the area of Hope Road Southeast and Calvary Road Southeast, which is zoned rural residential. Trisco requested a conditional use permit to allow a 39.9 kilowatt wind turbine tower to be used for agricultural power generation.
A total of seven residents have expressed opposition to the tower in the proposed location; five were present at the county board meeting. Trisco was not present.
“We feel this is too close to all our properties,” said Osakis resident Angela Jacobson, who acted as spokesperson for the group.
The group also has concerns regarding safety issues such as propeller ice accumulation. Jacobson said Trisco owns other properties where it may be less obtrusive to neighbors.
Douglas County is currently working on an alternative energy ordinance and has used the wireless tower ordinance as a guide until the alternative energy ordinance is completed.
Douglas County Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush said that ordinance being used at this time is the same ordinance as the communications tower. It was selected as a guide based on the size, aesthetics and intended usage of the wind turbine units.
The county hopes to have an alternative energy ordinance in place by next spring, Rush said.
Jacobson noted that under the ordinance that is currently being followed, section two states that placement of towers should be sensitive to population density.
“Density is subject to interpretation,” Rush said. “Our interpretation would be that it is not dense residential.”
Rush also said that according to the comprehensive land use plan, the area adjacent to where Trisco’s tower would be placed in is to be preserved for active agriculture. Right now the area is zoned as residential but in time it will likely be rezoned.
Jim Hultman of Runestone Electric Association (REA) said the only reason the tower was allowed to be across from the homestead was because the REA board was trying to accommodate an REA member. This particular location was approved because it has three-phase power, meaning there is alternating-current electric power generation, transmission and distribution.
“[The energy] is intended to be offsetting your home electric use,” Hultman said. “Not just to put it up in the field to produce electricity.”
Because the commissioners were presented with new information at Tuesday’s meeting, the issue has been sent back to the planning advisory commission. Once the commission reviews the request in September and factors in additional data, the query will come back to the commissioners for approval if the commission approves it at that time.
HRA LEVY REQUEST APPROVED
Commissioners unanimously approved an increase to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) of Douglas County’s 2013 tax levy. An additional $20,000 was requested for a total of $485,000, which is 56 percent of the maximum levy amount established by Minnesota statute.
“Even with this increase, we’re only at 56 percent of what we could levy, whereas the city of Alexandria HRA is at 100 percent,” said Commissioner Paul C. Anderson. “I feel that we’re not asking for a whole lot.”
Commissioner Dan Olson expressed concern that the county is being asked to “pick up the brunt of the load again… as per usual” because state and federal funds are not available. Documents presented to the board identified changes in federal and state funding as particular challenges to the 2013 budget.
HRA Executive Director Jeffrey Schiffman said the “small increase” is being requested in part because revenues have been down.
“On the revenue side we’re down quite a bit,” Schiffman said. He also reported that there are currently 380 people waiting for Section 8 or public housing assistance. The increase granted by the commissioners will help with rental assistance.
The increase is the first since 2008.
ARMER EQUIPMENT PURCHASE
The county continues to prepare for the transition from the current radio communication system to the 800-megahertz frequency that will function under the Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response (ARMER) system.
Commissioners approved the purchase of 62 Johnson radios from Brandon Communications for $149,024. Assistant Public Works Director Scott Green said Brandon Communications was the low price on the state bid. Installation and programming by Brandon Communications for the equipment was also approved at a cost of $20,328.
“It’s good to see these radios come locally,” said Commissioner Anderson. “It seems like everything else is going to Motorola.”
ARMER will make communication between law enforcement, fire and emergency personnel on federal, state, county and local levels more fluid than it has been in the past by operating on an 800-megahertz nano frequency. The frequency opens up more channels to transmit information.
PHILANTHROPIC FITNESS FOR SHERIFF’S OFFICE
An anonymous donor has provided fitness equipment to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The previously used equipment is valued at $1,500. The same donor has also given a cash donation of $2,000 to be designated for fitness equipment, said Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen.
“[The fitness room] has been maintained solely through donations,” Wolbersen said.
Commissioners accepted both donations.
BEYOND THE YELLOW RIBBON HONOR
Alexandria City Councilmember and chair of Douglas County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon network Owen Miller attended Tuesday’s meeting to present the commissioners with an official certificate in honor of the state of Minnesota and Governor Mark Dayton’s proclamation naming Douglas County and Alexandria as a Yellow Ribbon network.
“What it means is that it’s an ongoing event and we’ll continue to have military personnel from any of the branches of service that are deployed and their families have need for assistance,” Miller said. “The biggest issue we run into is finding out who needs it.”
Miller urges anyone who knows of a military family in need of assistance to contact the organization.
Following the meeting, Commissioner Bev Bales provided more background on the types of services that are offered. Since Beyond the Yellow Ribbon’s beginning in Douglas County more than a year ago, families have been helped with lawn mowing, snow removal, rides to appointments, housesitting, automobile repair, finding employment and connecting with the community in general.
“This is only the beginning, of course, and Yellow Ribbon will continue,” Bales said.
For more information and to contact Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, visit http://www.btyr.org.