Township suing wind farm owner over roads
SHELDON — Sheldon Township in Iroquois County is suing the owner of the Settlers Trail Wind Farm for more than $1.8 million, alleging that the company failed to adequately restore township roads used to build the 94-turbine wind farm in 2011.
Sheldon Township Highway Commissioner James Yana filed the one-count lawsuit in Iroquois County Circuit Court this week against E.On Climate & Renewables North America LLC, doing business as Settlers Trail Wind Farm LLC.
The lawsuit claims that the road restoration work, which was required to be done by E.On as part of a "road upgrade and maintenance agreement," remains "deficient over an approximately five-mile radius." The agreement had required E.On to repair all roads damaged during construction to their "pre-construction condition" or better.
The $1.8 million sought by the township reflects the cost for having the necessary restoration work done.
E.On communications manager Matt Tulis said the company had not yet seen the lawsuit so it is not prepared to comment.
According to the suit, after bringing concerns to E.On's attention following construction, Yana said he was told to address his concerns to the subcontractor that performed the road restoration, Terre Haute, Ind.-based White Construction Inc.
Yana said he did so in fall 2011, and Yana continued to express his concerns in the "numerous months" that followed.
In January 2012, E.On officials asked Yana to provide White Construction a list of roads with problems, and he did so, the suit says.
In July 2012, Yana provided an updated list, and two days later he met with E.On officials to reach an agreement for the work that needed to be done. But Yana said that E.On officials arrived at the meeting "with no further information as to their proposal of when they intended to replace the defective roads."
In September 2012, E.On and Yana agreed on an independent professional civil engineer — Applied Research Associates Inc. in Champaign — to inspect the roads. E.On also agreed "not to dispute" the engineer's findings and that the company would "proceed to repair any deficiencies identified" by the engineer "as soon as possible."
On June 17, 2013, Applied Research Associates' report disclosed that a number of roads in the township had not been returned to "at least as good" condition, the lawsuit says. All of those roads identified as damaged had "pavement corrugation," also known as "washboarding."
Later, E.On informed Sheldon Township officials that "it is only prepared to make minor remediation to repair moderate corrugation" at six intersections. E.On told the township it intended to "do nothing about 'low corrugation' roadways because low corrugation presents 'no hazard or inconvenience to the motoring public,'" the suit says.
Yana did not immediately return a message seeking further comment.
Iroquois County Board Chairman Rod Copas said Thursday that the county is not part of the lawsuit, adding that he is "unaware of any problems we have on the county roads that were involved in this."