Sagrillo dispells another anti-wind myth

Posted on January 30, 2008. Filed under: Wind |


Mick Sagrillo counters another rumor frequently circulated by opponents of wind generation: 

Allegation

It has come to my attention that there are rumors circulating around Wisconsin as to the details of the WPS’s offer to purchase homes near their wind farm in Lincoln Township. Principle among these is the “report” that “the noise from the WPS wind farm was so intolerable that several homes were condemned as unlivable.” I would like to set that record straight.

The Factual Record

After 22 wind turbines—14 owned by WPS, eight owned by Madison Gas & Electric–were placed in service in Lincoln Township in June 1999, the Town adopted on July 6, 1999, a moratorium on further construction of wind turbines in the Township until it could review and evaluate the impacts on residents from the existing turbines. To that end, the Lincoln Township Wind Turbine Moratorium Study Committee was appointed by the Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors on December 6, 1999. I was appointed as chair of the committee by Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Arlin Monfils.

In that capacity, I met with WPS employees Jerome Tews, Director of Real Estate, Tom Rice, Acoustics Engineer, and William Kust, Facilities Manager at the Pullium Plant, to design and oversee a seasonal sound study at nearly residences surrounding the wind farm. The Wind Turbine Committee recommended that the sound study be done by Sanchez Industrial Design Inc. out of Madison. My final meeting with Mr. Tews and Mr. Kust took place on May 9, 2000, at which time they were to review the results of the sound studies so that I could present the findings to the Wind Turbine Committee.

At that meeting, Mr. Tews revealed that WPS had sent letters to six property owners around the WPS wind farm on May 4th, offering to purchase their property. A copy of that letter (with the recipients’ name and address blocked out to respect their privacy) is attached to this correspondence. These six property owners had issues with the wind turbines and had voiced their dissatisfaction publically. Mr. Tews also explained that if any owners did sell their property to WPS, the homes would be razed and the property would be held by WPS as vacant land for possible sale. However, Mr. Tews emphasized that the properties would only be sold if rezoned and used for agricultural or commercial purposes, or possibly to adjacent property owners. WPS would not sell the property to anyone interested in building a residence on it.

When pressed as to why WPS would do such a thing, Mr. Tews explained that this type of offer was standard corporate policy for WPS with anyone complaining about any WPS facility or construction project, be it a coal-fired power plant, combined-cycle electric generating facility, transmission line, or utility right of way. MR. Tews explained that offering to purchase property was WPS policy for managing opposition to their projects. The additional policy of razing the home on the property and refusing to resell the property for residential development guaranteed that “problem residents”, as Mr. Tews put it, would not resurface.

When I reported this to the Wind Turbine Moratorium Study Committee on May 10, 2001, they were more than a little taken aback. One concern was that any property WPS purchased would be removed from the tax rolls. As such, the committee drafted (May 24, 2001) and approved (May 29, 2001) a resolution to go to the Town Board requesting that WPS devise a better solution to their public relations problems than buying out “complainers”, razing the homes, removing the properties from development, and taking the properties off of the tax rolls. The expectation was that WPS would meet with the Town Board of Supervisors to devise a compromise solution. The Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors approved the resolution on June 4, 2001. I sent the resolution to Tom Meinz, the WPS corporate official that Mr. Tews reported to, on June 5, 2001.

On August 6, 2001, Mr Meinz, Mr. Tews, and Mr. Kust attended the Lincoln Township monthly meeting to respond to the resolution. The message from Mr. Meinz to the Township was perfectly clear: the offer to purchase and raze the six homes that WPS had made was in line with WPS corporate policy and would stand. WPS was adamant that there would be no compromises. The Town board was dismayed with WPS’ obstinacy, to say the least.

Summaries of the six offers to purchase and outcomes:

1. The first house was about 1,000 feet from the nearest wind turbine. At the time of the WPS offer, the owners of this property were recently divorced, and disposal of the property was part of the settlement as both parties were in the process of moving. On receiving the WPS offer to purchase, one of the owners stated at a Town board meeting that this was “better than winning the lottery”. This home was purchased and subsequently destroyed by WPS.

2. The second house was also about 1,000 feet from the nearest wind turbine. Prior to WPS building the wind farm, the owner of this property had been contemplating moving to another community upon retirement. On receiving the WPS offer to purchase, the owner stated at a Town board meeting that he had “hit the jackpot.” The home was purchased and subsequently destroyed by WPS after the owner relocated to another community.

3. The third house was about 990 feet from the nearest wind turbine. The owners of this home declined the offer to purchase by WPS. They did, however, build a new home about 30 feet away from their original home, and still live there. Their new house is 1,020 feet away from the nearest wind turbine.

4. The fourth house is about 1250 feet from the nearest wind turbine. The owners of this house were interested in buying property in the adjacent township and moving their home to that new property. This was actually amenable to WPS. Unfortunately, the owners were not able to find a suitable piece of property to move their house to. They still live in their home.

5. The fifth house is about 1,500 feet from the nearest wind turbine, and the sixth house is about 2,830 feet from the nearest wind turbine. Rather than accept the WPS offer to purchase and destroy their homes, these owners hired an attorney and sued WPS, claiming that the wind farm was a nuisance. About a week before the case was to go to court, WPS settled out of court with both property owners, for undisclosed amounts. WPS denied any culpability or wrong doing, indicating that they did not need the negative publicity. Both homeowners still live in their respective homes.

I hope that this clarifies any misunderstanding that persists concerning this situation.

Mick Sagrillo

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