The voice of the people has been conveyed to government officials of Cherry county, Nebraska. Three commissioners indicated a 60-day public comment period for a proposed wind turbine facility, and letters of many sorts arrived at the designated county office, via postal service, fax, email and more distinctly by those who walked into the proper office on Main Street, Valentine, and presented the paperwork with their view. One delivered comment was written on a paper plate.
Topics indicated by the writings vary. Some of the first opinions arrived in mid-June to ask the three deciders to remove someone from the Planning Commission that had was involved with a company promoting wind turbines while also making decisions about planning in the county. The man did publicly resign.
When the three deciders set a time frame for the public to submit comments regarding the Conditional Use Permit for the proposed Kilgore wind turbine project, there was a whole bunch of letters submitted during the sixty-day period and for some subsequent days.
Each of the letters submitted were scanned by a county employee. Each of the letters were made available via electronic media. All of the available files were acquired via a thumb drive as made available in the county office to any requester, are the basis for the following comments.
Once the public files were available and retrieved, each file was evaluated to determine the correspondence and its author. The names were written down. The composite file provided by the county official was then copied on a personal computer, with a file name associated with the author and the date when the item was received at the Cherry county office. Each file was then edited so that only the context of the sole author remained. It took dozens of hours to edit files in order to remove ancillary comments and retain only the comments associated with the primary author. Essential details were then entered into a database table. Each of the electronic records was thus available for comparative purposes and most importantly to do a query on one or another specific.
There were 252 letters considered, with this number derived from original submissions, and with duplicates combined into a single submission. In some instances, three letters were sent in order to provide a copy to each county commissioner, though each of them was a duplicate.
The primary item of interest – and comment and concern - was whether or not the writer was a proponent or opponent of wind turbines in Cherry county. The submissions were quite vivid. They varied from a scribbled sentence or two to whereas someone did research and mad comments and added ancillary material based upon their detailed research whether it was online or as seen in some reportorial article. Personal opinion reigned as it was pervasive in the verbiage, or even rarely some editorial pictures.
There were 218 submissions where a point-of-view indicated a proponent or opponent choice.
The count was 182 opponents, representing comments by 179 people, so obviously some couple of folks sent in more than one letter, to indicate something or another, or to denote further information that should be considered in regards to the CUP. Opponent letters represented ca. 83.5% of the overall number of letters.
Proponent letters numbered 36, or about 16.5%. A bit more than two-thirds of them were known or realized members of the Cherry County Wind group, based upon name associations and county records. Based upon the known letters, less than one-third of the members of the Cherry County Wind group provided a letter of support for wind turbines within the county. It was obvious while reading the letters, that numerous known members of CCW did not indicate their membership in this association. Their participation in the wind promotion group was based upon their statement of involvement, as well as ancillary research. Obviously, members of this group prefer to not disclose their paid status!
Multiple letters were received from Nebraska, and especially Cherry county places:
Many of the letters from post-offices along the Highway 2 corridor (i.e., Thedford, Seneca, Mullen and Whitman) are actually residents within Cherry county.
Letters also came from Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, many from Missouri. Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and South Carolina. Obviously many people that are not residents, though they may be land-owners resident elsewhere or someone which has discovered the region, appreciate the region and their regular or intermittent visits, and took the time to convey that they want the current land setting to continue.
Other pertinent topics mentioned by the contributors to this public discourse were the essential need for a moratorium on issuing CUPs for wind turbine, that commissioners need to make a decision based upon a thorough evaluation of facts, that Van Winkle has a conflict of interest and is making decisions, as determined by state accountability officials, and other miscellany.
Further evaluation of letter contents would convey the reasons why someone took a particular stance regarding wind turbines.
On October 26th, the public hearing on the conditional use permit will be held, starting at 4 p.m. at the Valentine High School auditorium. Public comments will be accepted.