Wind Farms In Knox County – Ed O’Rourke

Knox County may be the site for many wind farms.   There are people in the county concerned about the effect on birds and wildlife and other collateral damage.

Below see the letter from the Kirksville Regional Economic Development Incorporated that appeared in the February 3 Edina Sentinel.

Go Chiefs,

Ed

Dear Letter to the Editor,

After reading the recent article about the local group pushing back on wind farms, I wanted to take a moment and share my perspective as an economic developer and how the High Prairie project has impacted our community in the short-term and in the long-term.

Short-term:  After the developer had a third-party economic impact study completed for the region, the report estimated that 350-400 construction jobs would be created and that more than $1.8M would be generated from the activity.  This has been the case.  The number of construction workers who poured into our area, filled our hotel rooms, campgrounds, cabins, and rental housing units spread the economic benefit to many in the community.  The majority were here for over a year.  They ate out, purchased gas, and kept our economy humming during the COVID pandemic.  Because of the wind farm, Kirksville and Adair County did not see the sales tax decline or hotel tax decline so many other communities saw.

Long-term:  The long-term impacts have been impressive as well.  The land lease payments each year total ~$3.2M; and 70% of the landowners receiving those payments are local.  These lease payments have allowed farmers to retire, children to come home and run the family farm because of the additional income, and allowed new trucks to be purchased, home renovations to occur, etc.

The jobs created have been notable too.  Approximately 25-30 wind technicians are needed to keep the wind park operational.  80% of the wind technicians hired have been local.  75% have been veterans.  I have numerous stories of local guys getting good paying jobs (in excess of $50,000 a year), or of former residents moving back to the area with their families for the jobs.    The 20% of the people hired who come from outside the area, will boost our population, will buy homes, and have their kids in our schools.

And I have not mentioned the taxes (approximately $2M) coming to all the taxing districts each year for the project in each county.  A superintendent told his board last year, that the new tax money would save 8 teachers jobs, as their student population had been steadily declining year over year and money from the state declining as well.  How many other jobs will it save?

I encourage all of Knox County to do a cost benefit analysis.  What are the real costs, not the hyperbole, of the project?  Once the studies have been conducted on bat/bird species, setbacks put in place, road use agreements signed, etc., I believe this project and the people can live together. Don’t get me wrong.  Is every aspect of building a wind park cheerful and happy?  No.  The roads will get torn up and look terrible.  The traffic will make you grateful you live in a rural area and not a big city.  Some might think the wind turbines are less than attractive.  But I have yet to see a beautiful water tower or light pole.

I encourage the Commissioners and citizens to look to the cost benefit analysis. Does the full economic impact of the project amid the costs make it a $350M project you want coming to your county.  Was the last multi-million-dollar project worth it?  Or have you had a project that big?  Have you had a project that can transform your county, its destiny, and the future potential of your kids?

Carolyn Chrisman

Executive Director

K-REDI, Kirksville, MO

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