(Cass) County should tread carefully on issue of turbines

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following originally appeared in the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, IN on Saturday, February 10, 2018.)

I received a copy of a letter penned by Tipton County Auditor Gregg Townsend, submitted in a packet of information distributed by Renewable Energy Systems to landowners in Cass County.

In the letter, Townsend implies that wind turbines are the greatest financial boon ever to befall Tipton County. To those who believe that a dollar is worth more than the health, safety and sanity of the community, this letter is music to the ear.

The reality is:

Townsend notes that 25 linear miles of roadway were upgraded by E.ON Climate & Renewables — the company that installed wind turbines in Tipton County — at no cost to the taxpayer. This is true. The reason? E.ON completely destroyed those roadways during the construction of the towers. The upgrade was a part of the road use agreement and a mandatory contractual obligation on the part of E.ON. It wasn’t something E.ON did out of the goodness of its heart.

Townsend also notes that $1.2 million dollars in economic development funds were paid to the county and that this money was a “gift.” The money came in four installments from E.ON and was certainly not a gift as Townsend implies. It was a payment negotiated by the county commissioners. The $1.2 million dollars was intended as a payment to make up for lost economic development opportunities in the areas where the wind turbines were erected. The county held onto it for several years until various groups started screaming for it to be disbursed. Thus, the next set of commissioners and council members divvied it out.

Agricultural property taxes continue to be the primary source of revenue for Tipton County. It is simply not true, as Townsend states, that property taxes have decreased or tax rates have lowered. In fact, in 2009, financial consultant Umbaugh & Associates told us that at best a household’s property taxes might decrease by approximately $23 per year with the advent of the wind turbines.

Documentation from our County Assessor’s office verifies that our tax rates have gone up since the installation of wind turbines — from $2.34 per $100 assessed value in 2012 to $2.42 in 2017.

I continue to urge Cass County to proceed with caution regarding wind turbine development. You need not go far in any direction to see neighboring counties that have rejected or banned turbines. There is good reason for that.

— Jane Harper, former Tipton County Commissioner

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