Huron East has overturned a 2013 and will accept wind turbine funds - Jan. 5, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron East now stands to make over $2 million over the next 19 years thanks to the approval of a vibrancy fund with St. Columban Energy.
The agreement was approved by council by way of bylaw at its last meeting of the year in late December. Council first rescinded a motion approved at the April 2, 2013 meeting that declared the municipality an “unwilling host” to wind turbine projects and then approved an agreement with the company.
The issue was raised by Mayor Bernie MacLellan at council’s Dec. 6 meeting. However, he first addressed potentially revisiting the issue at council’s first meeting after the 2014 election, saying it was something he hoped the new council would consider.
The agreement will pay Huron East an annual base amount of $115,500 for the next 19 years (the original agreement had been for 20 at the time it was turned down) for a total of over $2.19 million.
The money, said Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight, could be used on any number of community projects, as long as they are approved by St. Columban Energy.
Knight likened it to the new fire truck purchased for the Seaforth division of the Huron East Fire Department. That truck, he told councillors, was purchased entirely with funds from another vibrancy fund agreement for a wind turbine transmission line that runs through the municipality.
MacLellan said that while council had some concerns about potential adverse health effects and turbine placement, and voiced those concerns at the time, the turbines have since been placed and are now operational.
None of the opposition from the municipality has had an impact, he said, and with the turbines now in place, the municipality would be foolish to not take money for the turbines if it were on the table.
He said that some things had changed since the vibrancy fund had first been considered. He said the municipality was told that its opinions would be considered in the planning process, which turned out not to be the case.
MacLellan told councillors that it only made sense to reconsider the fund to help with the cost of running the municipality given the extensive funding cuts and continued financial pressures.
“With these money concerns,” he said, “we need every penny we can get.”
At this point, with the turbines operational, he said, it wouldn’t do the municipality any good not to accept money from the vibrancy fund if it were to be offered.
While Councillor Nathan Marshall said he agreed with MacLellan, he asked what the company’s motivation would be to provide funds to the municipality if the turbines are already up and running. MacLellan said he couldn’t answer that question, but that if the money was there, Huron East would be making a positive move by taking it.
Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler agreed, saying that council should begin accepting the annual payments of over $115,000 and simply move on.
A handful of wind turbine opponents in the gallery were displeased with council’s consideration of the fund and voiced their opinions, although they were not officially given the floor to speak on the topic.
In addition, two opponents, Gerry Ryan and Jeanne Melady, had also written letters to council advising them not to reconsider the fund.
“I have attended council meetings quite regularly for several years. I have to wonder, who is making the decisions in our municipality?” asked Ryan in his letter. “I have followed the reporting of the council meetings in the local press, and have to say I have never been so disappointed in the leadership both administratively and politically. The attention this council has brought to itself is embarrassing to the municipality.”
Councillor Larry McGrath asked that the vote be recorded and while nine councillors voted for the motion, three voted against it. Councillors McGrath, Bob Fisher and Brenda Dalton voted against the motion, while MacLellan, Steffler, Marshall, David Blaney, John Lowe, Kevin Wilbee, Dianne Diehl, Alvin McLellan and Ray Chartrand all voted in favour of the motion.
After council voted to officially rescind the “unwilling host” motion, later in the meeting council passed a bylaw that officially authorized a community benefits fund agreement with St. Columban Energy.