Planners get funding for wind energy study

COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Building and Planning Department can go ahead and hire a consultant for the design of its wind energy rules.The Whitley County Council, with a nod from Whitley County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Rethlake, agreed to take $4,400 from the commissioners’ engineering and consulting budget to help pay for Ground Rules, Inc.’s fee for developing a wind energy ordinance.The fee for the study is $9,400, with the Whitley County Economic Development Corporation pitching in $5,000 of the fee.The Whitley County Plan Commission received three quotes for wind energy consultation and recommended to the county the proposal by Ground Rules, Inc., which is the current architect of the county’s latest comprehensive plan.Ground Rules will conduct a study with data from that study being integral in the development of the wind energy ordinance.Council members initially balked at the $4,400 price tag, citing tight budgetary constraints.“We don’t have the money,” said Councilman Bill Overdeer.“I just want to make sure we’re not throwing money out there on the sidewalk,” said Council Chairman Kim Wheeler.Council newcomer Paula Reimers, who also serves on the Whitley County Plan Commission, reminded the board of the volatility of the wind energy issue in recent months and how an independent study could help defuse the issue.“This is a countywide issue and it will come to the commissioners eventually and the council,” she said.“I think we owe it to the taxpayers to make sure we invest in getting a good study.”Reimers said opponents to the previously drafted wind energy ordinance organized a petition with about 1,100 signatures and that at least 110 residents in the county had already signed lease agreements with wind energy company Wind Capital Group.“A lot of people do now know what this will bring to the county,” she said.