County board opposes bill on wind farms
URBANA — Champaign County Board members have gone on record as being opposed to legislation in Springfield that they contend would weaken their oversight of wind farms.
In a unanimous voice vote, board members approved a resolution opposing Senate Bill 3263, proposed by Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville. The bill was assigned to the Senate Energy Committee nearly a month ago but hasn't been heard.
County board members said Thursday that Champaign County's wind-farm ordinance provides better protection for citizens than the regulations in Sullivan's bill.
Board chairman Al Kurtz, a Champaign Democrat, said the legislation would "interfere with us doing what we have done and building a very, very strong wind-farm ordinance, probably a role model for the rest of the state."
"To me it looks like a wind-farm lobbyist's dream, to get the counties off its back," said Champaign Democrat Astrid Berkson.
"We're closer to our own problems and we should be regulating them," said Urbana Democrat Ralph Langenheim, "and there's no reason why they should be encroaching on us."
Urbana Democrat Chris Alix called Sullivan's bill "very likely a power and revenue grab by the state in the guise of attempting to promulgate regulations for counties that have not promulgated their own."
The board also approved a contract with the Urbana engineering firm of Berns, Clancy & Associates to perform a preliminary engineering report on Wilber Heights, an unincorporated area just north of Champaign adjacent to the Canadian National Railroad tracks that has been plagued for years by flooding. The report is not to cost more than $20,600.
Also winning board approval was a 3-year contract between the county and Head Start employees, members of AFSCME Local 900, that is retroactive to March 1. Under the terms of the agreement, the Head Start employees will receive a one-time retention payment of 2 percent of base wages paid in the prior year plus a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase in the first year of the contract. They'll get smaller increases in years two and three.
Board members had been scheduled to hold a public hearing on a federal grant application for a proposed sanitary sewer project for Seymour, an unincorporated community in western Champaign County, but the session was canceled after the Seymour Water District board Wednesday night voted not to proceed with the plan.
Board members decided that the cost of the project, estimated at approximately $3 million, was too expensive for the 125 homeowners in the community, said Susan Chavarria, a planning manager at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.
Two board members were absent from Thursday's meeting: Democrat Lloyd Carter and Republican Stan Harper.