During an open house for the Otter Creek Wind Farm project on Tuesday, a pair of Chatham-Kent councillors explained some of the benefits these type of projects bring to the Municipality.
Wallaceburg Coun. Carmen McGregor said a August 10 council decision to support the Otter Creek project, allows the Municipality to negotiate certain aspects of the project if it gets approved by the province.
“You have to understand we don’t have the authority to decide which project is going to happen or where they are going to happen, but if we are a welcoming community, we can then negotiate benefits for our community,” McGregor said.
“If we decide not to be, the province may send them in and they will locate wherever they are going to be, but as a welcoming community we get to negotiate a part of the deal. I think this particular one talks about $1.5 million in community dollars back to the community. It brings jobs to the community, it helps retailers because now we have people in here working when building these projects.”
McGregor added: “So being a welcoming community means that if we are going to have it, regardless we want to get the fringe benefits that go along with it and that’s what being a welcoming community gets us.”
North Kent Coun. Joe Faas said the the majority of people at Tuesday’s open house were really concerned about the proposed project.
“I think a lot of their concern is maybe not positive but some of the concerns may not have any validity to it at all either,” he said. “Because of coffee shop talk and everything else. Health risks, property values and that type of thing. Those we have heard for years, but nobody has been able to prove that, that’s actually the facts. I think the companies are trying to be transparent, inviting the public to come here and listen. They have boards all the way around explaining the whole process, explaining the benefits to the Municipality and I think in my opinion that this is an industry.”
Faas added: “It’s just like if Toyota was to come to Chatham-Kent and say we want to set up in Chatham-Kent, we would welcome that with open arms. That is basically my take on this because if you look at the revenues the Municipality gets now with the existing ones, its over 1% of our budget. If we had an industry come in and say we want to pay you $1.2 Million a year in tax bases, plus the community partnership donations that they are giving us. The building permits alone. The maintenance with Entegrus, the option for Entegrus to buy 15%. All positives and how many times have we heard, our taxes are too high, we need to generate tax dollars. We have an opportunity to do that with clean energy.”
Faas said Chatham-Kent was one of the first communities in the province to jump on the wind energy bandwagon.
“We got on it because we saw the benefits of that but because we were forefront on that we were able to negotiate a lot of things that other communities aren’t getting,” Faas said.
“One very important one is a road maintenance agreement. When they come in to build a wind turbine they look at the road before they start, and they look at that condition and they check that road after it is done and the company has to put that road back in that same condition that is was when they first started. That’s some of the things that are part of the welcoming community that we can negotiate now, because if we didn’t have that welcoming community and said ‘no we don’t want you’ then we wouldn’t be able to negotiate all of that, the government would just come in say ‘here you are’ type thing.”
Faas added: “If you look at Leamington were one of the communities that said we don’t want you but where are they going? Lambton County, there isn’t anybody in Lambton County that wants them but if you drive to Lambton County, how many of them do you see there? I’ve talked to the Lambton County politicians because I’m on the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority and I hear the negative sides of that. I tell them the benefits we get and they don’t believe us. I’ve had Gerry Wolting, when he was around, send them the information to say ‘look here.'”
McGregor said she has had discussions with John Norton, the chief legal officer in Chatham-Kent, and Thomas Kelly, the general manager of infrastructure and engineering in Chatham-Kent, about how other Municipalities contact Chatham-Kent to learn about the deals C-K has made with the wind turbine companies.
“How we are able to negotiate the deals because you know they are ending up with them too, and getting no benefit,” McGregor said.
The province are the one’s who decide if the projects are approved or not, McGregor said.
“I has been a real mixed bag out there right now,” she said. “We were looking at some bordering communities that have been definitely against it, fighting against it. Sometimes the companies have picked up and left because the community is so against it. In other instances, it hasn’t made one bit of difference.”
Faas added the wind companies are trying to work their way up a point system.
“They get so many points for every level,” he said. “One of the point systems is to have the Municipality as a welcoming community. That puts them higher up on the grid. That doesn’t guarantee that they are going to get that project. The Ontario Energy Corporation is the one that has the final decision to say ‘yeah, that project goes.'”
McGregor said she was impressed with the turnout at the Tuesday meeting in Wallaceburg.
“I know there is a lot of people that are maybe not for this project but I think that people have to come out and understand and probably learn a little bit about the companies and what they do,” she said. “If they just stay home they are not going to necessarily learn that so its a really good opportunity to learn exactly what these projects are all about and ask the right questions.”
People lined up outside the door at the Clubhouse at Baldoon on Tuesday night for the meeting, here is our full story.
We’ve also spoken with Adam Rosso, the director of project development in Ontario for Boralex.
Watch for more on this story.
– Photo: Denise Shephard chats with Carmen McGregor and Joe Faas at the Otter Creek Wind Farm meeting held in Wallaceburg.