DANVILLE, IL. (ECWd) –
Report on the July 8, 2014 Vermilion County Board Meeting.
The June meeting began on promptly on time at 6 pm. Chairman Weinard started the meeting with 23 present, 4 absent. The adoption of the agenda, approval of minutes and report on claims passes. The month of July in Vermilion County is designated to the remembrance of the Korean War by proclamation.
Editor’s Note: The board meeting video is recorded by the county and, although not coming even close to being moderately accessible to the average citizen considering youtube is free and widely used, is located at the following links:
Low Quality: CLICK HERE these will play on your computer after they download
High Quality: CLICK HERE these will play on your computer after they download
Under audience comments this week Dave Miles from Pilot Township is the first to speak. Dave is a wind turbine victim of the county approved Invenergy complex. Mr. Miles is rightfully concerned about the recent give-away of 3-4 acres of county ground that was declared surplus by the county board. He has not received any documentation from Mr. Donahue that justifies this ground be given away. Mr. Miles believes that the property should not be given away and offers $10,000 for the ground. Since the county is giving away the property without following the proper procedures, Mr. Miles is requesting that any other property that the county gives away be given to him for free including trucks and mowers.
Mr. Miles goes further to state that since he has been coming to the county board meetings he has seen many things that don’t seem legal to him such as the no-bid $650,000 GIS contract. Mr. Miles believes that he has the right to speak out to the board without retaliation especially in light of Donahue declaring him hostile to the board. Mr. Miles is not hostile, it is just another case of county board trying to blame the victims for shining light on their activities that would otherwise go unnoticed by the public.
It is with great sadness that Mr. Miles states that he and others have been coming to the board for over a year about issues with the wind complex and still the board does nothing to help. Mr. Miles asks that they consider changing the setbacks much like others have done in communities across the country. Mr. Miles also notes that up to 73% of land owners that sign up for wind turbines do not live near them. He also notes that if they wanted to, Chairman Weinard and the board could help the wind victims.
Next to speak under public comments is Darrell Cambron from Vermilion County. He states the he will be reading a statement from Vermilion County resident Ted Hartke who could not attend tonight’s meeting. The prepared statement begins with findings of fact concerning the county surplus land. Mr. Hartke has found that the land is not landlocked as stated falsely by Asst. State’s Attorney Bill Donahue. The land also has significant value and a building that is serviceable, not surplus as declared by the county. The only negative aspects is the proximity of the animal shelter. The land could also cleaned up for much less than the amount that was told to the board of $6,000.
Other details of concern are the fact that several times county board chairman Gary Weinard stated that the land was not contingent of the sale of the tillable acreage. Yet Bill Donahue wrote in an e-mail that: A potential buyer who bid a lower price at the auction approached the county through the auctioneer and said we will come up to the bid price of $10,000 an acre for the tillable farm land if you consider transferring as part of the sale the untillable acres. That requirement was in the sales contract. Brian Neville (Auctioneer) wrote in an e-mail: I was in no position to accept the down payment because I do not have an agency contract between Vermilion county and myself to negotiate the sale of the surplus property that was discussed at the board meeting.
I believe that both Bill Donahue and Gary Weinard are telling tall tales in order to keep the public (and the board members) from knowing the truth. Adding this quantity of land to facilitate the successful farmland sale is a pitiful waste of Vermilion County Taxpayer resources. At this point, Mr. Cambron is cut off by the county board chairman having used up 5 minutes of time. Mr. Cambron states that he has 1 and ½ more pages and concludes by announcing that Mr. Hartke will offer $25,000 for the 3.75 acre tract of so called surplus land.
Mr. John Kraft from Edgar County speaks next. He begins by reading the remainder of the Hartke statement. Counties hold property in trust for the benefits of the inhabitants of the county and they are “bound to administer it faithfully, honestly and justly, and if it is guilty of a breach of trust by disposing of its valuable property for little or no consideration, it is regarded as acting on behalf of an individual. Using forms of legislation in commenting such a breach of trust does not make any difference in the act. This means that just because the majority of the board voted in favor to surplus this land, it does not mean that it can be given away for much less than its value. This was another fiscally irresponsible proposal pushed by the Vermilion County Board leaders. Mr. Kraft goes on to state that he believes that land declared surplus by the county was a gift when it was given away. He also states that he has not read the last page of the Hartke statement and encourages that board to read it.
That Hartke statement ends with a follow-up to the board chairman’s comment from the last board meeting: Gary Weinard told the wind farm victim families that we were not going to find any resolution to our property loses here at the county boardroom. He said that we needed to seek resolution through the court system. I realize that my house is already ruined as far as it being a healthy place to live because the warning were ignored. The leader of this county should never send vulnerable citizens to court to fight for the rights which were supposed to have been safeguarded by this board. Nobody truly believes that the county board lacks the power to make changes to the ordinance.
It is purely the current lame excuses and attempt by county board leadership to delay the inevitable corrections to the county’s wind ordinance. Gary, this is going to be your legacy as chairman of the county board. It will be your inaction, ineptitude, and disservice to the county which will be remembered. These problems will not be going away and will continue to follow you. What is really disappointing is that you are wasting the opportunity to do the right thing and fail to allow open discussion and resolution to the harm that will be done to families of future wind turbines constructed too close to their homes. Are you prepared to be the one who failed to protect the health and safety of the public?
County board members, are you going to continue to sit by and allow this to happen to more families? In the future, when this issue grows, do you want to be known as the ones who were too weak or timid or fearful to face the reality? Are you willing to “go along to get along” and be able to face the consequences of laying down? What is your legacy going to be? For a while now, the game has been to “blame the victims.” When the victim population grows, it will not be the fault of the first batch of victims.
The fault lies with the ones who did not do their jobs, did not do their due diligence, and failed to protect the rural residents of Vermilion County. End of Hartke statement.
Ted Hartke also states that he did not get any phone calls or emails about his offer to purchase the land.
Mr. Arthur Cronkite is the next speaker. Mr. Cronkite begins by distributing and holding up a photo of a child that is a wind victim of the county approved wind complex in Pilot Township. This victim is wearing headphones to try to block out the noise from the industrial wind turbines placed too close to her home. He ask how many more like her? Mr. Cronkite speculates that there will be more families affected by the new county approved wind complex in the Rossville/Hoopeston area.
Mr. Cronkite also questions the decision by county leaders to move ESDA to a broken down, termite infested building. Mr. Cronkite also lets the board know that he has had a videographer look into the county web site with the board meeting videos. He is not able to view the video’s even after trying to download for over 45 minutes.
He also questions why the lap dog media never reports on the audience comments at the county board meetings. Mr. Cronkite also interprets chairman Weinard’s advice to find a solution in the courthouse as saying to the resident “screw you all.” Screw you all because we are going to make money on this deal. Someone that has spent their life building value into their property is told to take it across the street. Screw you!
The next speaker is Kirk Allen from Edgar County. Mr. Allen is the Kansas Township supervisor. His township recently approved a zoning board for their township. They are researching issues with industrial wind turbines and have found that there are over 14,000 not in use or derelict. Mr. Allen’s research also showed that new turbines are up to 720 feet tall. The farthest debris field from parts failing on wind turbines is 1.5 miles.
This after the board was told by Mike Blazer of Invenergy that turbine parts are designed to fall straight down. Based on his township research Mr. Allen is proposing setback of 12 – 15 times the diameter of the turbine blades. Vermilion County’s outdated setback is 1200 feet from the property line of a family home. Yes, that’s right, from the property line.
Mr. Allen feels that from a safety standpoint his township had to do zoning. Mr. Allen advised the board that the problem will not go away and it will take leadership to solve. Mr. Allen does not think he could sleep well at night unless he did his research objectively on the hazards of industrial wind turbines. Mr. Allen advises the board that they can do something to protect the community. He urges the Vermilion County board to act.
At this point, Chairman Weinard ends the public comment period with several minutes remaining.
Executive & Legislation – an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county (Re: 2014 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program Award. The authorization passes 23 yes, 4 absent. Oddly, the attached grant document was signed by the county and city on 05/21/14 or well before the board voted authorization. A resolution establishing a truck route on the east side of the county passes. The election judge certification is eliminated from the agenda by the chairman. A full list of judges is not available at this time. Former chairman Jim McMahon advises the chairman that once something is on the agenda it cannot be removed. At this time the chairman and the assistant state’s attorney have a secret meeting that is not revealed to those in attendance. Then the state’s attorney suggests a motion to table the issue until the continuation of the board meeting on the 24th. This passes 22 yes, 1-no and 4 absent.
Finance/Personnel – an ordinance for the election commission for new computers, money coming from the state passes. Two ordinances, one for the general fund for legal counsel and the other for building and grounds for phone system repair both pass. The last item is the county audit presentation by Sandy Cook, CPA. There were 6 findings of which two were for negative balances. Also included in the audit is a 2-page letter concerning two areas of note. One is lack of access to nursing home receivable information due to the change of ownership and 2 checks that required two signatures and they were signed in both places by the same person.
Tax & Election – a resolution to change the polling place in Butler 1 from the library to the new fire station passes.
Transportation – a resolution for county bridge and highway improvements pass. A resolution to reappoint the county highway engineer passes along with a resolution setting the annual salary.
No Executive session was needed.
Chairman’s comments – the chairman discusses county IRMA building and the lost records needed to verify the improvements done to the building. The chairman also announces that each board member will be given a county e-mail address due to requests from the public for information which could include the board members personal e-mail addresses. According to the chairman the personal e-mail addresses will no longer be subject to FOIA.
The chairman continues to tell wind turbine victims that the county can do nothing to help them. The chairman tells the victims that the county does not regulate wind farms contrary to the county wind farm ordinance which is a set of regulations for wind farm development in the county. The chairman suggests that any help will come from the county courthouse across the street. He states that there is no interest in correcting the deficiencies in the current wind ordinance and adds (incorrectly) that a majority in the county want wind turbines.
The chairman defends his participation in the IMRF and does not understand why a county resident is interested in it. He suggests that the county resident get in their car and go to Springfield and check with IMRF. Apparently the county board chairman doesn’t like it when the public is interested in public information that they have every right to know. The chairman continues to assert that there is no problem with viewing the county video of the board meetings. He suggests that county resident that is having problems doesn’t know how to use a computer. Several residents have complained that they cannot view the video on the county web site. The complaints include lengthy download times even with a high speed internet connection. Is it possible that the county prefers to keep it that way? Surely not.
The board chairman announces that he does not appreciate the Edgar County Watchdogs coming to the board meetings and acting like the “new cops in town.” He states that if he has done something wrong, then come after him. End Chairman’s comments.
Only a person that has indeed done something wrong would have any problems with the citizens of the community taking an interest and scrutinizing their government as is their right. We are starting to see a pattern from this board leadership. They are repeatedly and systemically doing whatever they can to dismiss and eliminate the public oversight of their actions. In reality, this board should welcome the public participation. At a time when most people don’t get involved, don’t vote, don’t question their government and the lap-dog, mainstream media fails to report or investigate and even colludes with the government, it is a breath of fresh air when you see community interest in their local elected representatives.
This board meeting is recessed until July 24th to certify the election judges.
Next county board meeting will be August 12th at 6PM at the Danville Courthouse annex.