Written by Jerry Engler Tuesday, 05 August 2008 14:18
I’ve always enjoyed listening to former Marion County Commissioner Howard Collett because of his ability “to think outside the box.”
For instance, I have heard Howard recommend planting the county’s dirt roads to buffalo grass to hold them in place from erosion and wear.
Such thinking requires a person to have the ability to leap from more commonly considered paths to those that usually are not thought of, but may end up having greater value.
But this article isn’t about dwelling on Howard’s merits, no matter how great they are. It’s about jumping out of the box to consider something new—and Howard’s buffalo-grass idea was an illustration.
This article is also not an opinion on whether the bond proposal based on a 1 percent sales tax to build a new county jail on the November ballot should pass or fail.
But, I have to consider—and this is Jerry Engler jumping outside the box—if the opportunity arises, what other thing would I like to see Marion County pass a 1 percent sales tax to support?
Jumping outside the box for ideas has become a pleasure for me anyway, since I find many of the boxes created for us are half filled with kitty litter.
So, if Jerry could rule the world for a few minutes, and could leave it to the attorneys to figure out where the state of Kansas has jurisdiction and where the county commission has jurisdiction, what would I propose?
The top concerns in Marion County right now are energy and the economy.
Some of my favorite stories I’ve written include talking to people like Gary Johnson, a former electrical engineer for Kansas State University doing wind-energy research and now a consultant for wind farms.
Johnson has called Kansas a “new Saudi Arabia” when it comes to comparing oil with wind as an energy source. He said when it comes to wind energy, “This is the gold rush.”
He also has said the companies putting up wind turbine “farms” largely are interested in large plots of land under a single ownership for room and ease of development.
So, if you’re still with me, Jerry, outside his box wants to say that when it comes to energy development, he’s for the little guy and this county’s economic well-being. I want you in the rush, putting some gold in your own pockets.
Aside from a wonderful agricultural base, the biggest first-level economic production base this county has to offer is energy, wind and solar.
This is a case where the county needs to jump outside the box and become an advocate for its little guys. It’s less of a gamble than a casino would have been.
I propose the county use its resources—or the state, if anybody in Topeka truly listens to the grass roots—to create the framework and help finance an energy cooperative. This cooperative would employ its own engineer and crew.
A cooperative is jointly owned by its membership. In this case, the cooperative members would be Marion County citizens who take advantage of what the cooperative has to offer.
The cooperative would be responsible for economically aiding and providing the consulting base for each landowner in Marion County to have a wind turbine if he or she can physically accommodate it.
If that person owns only 40 acres, and not 10,000 acres, so be it. Let’s spread the wealth, not the sorrow of always being on the paying end.
In case you haven’t been thinking of it, every business and home in Marion County usually has a roof. I propose that the same cooperative be used to place solar collectors for energy on the roof of every individual who wants it.
I further propose that any electrical utility selling power in Marion County be required to buy the excess energy generated by the turbines and solar collectors owned by our citizens. Whenever it can be done, I want to see those meters going backward, with the extra power going to the general grid.
Let’s have some generating populism instead of seeing Westar always being the one telling the governing bodies of our communities how much we will pay next for the energy it provides.
And this isn’t just about our wallets. It’s also about our moral responsibility. How can we stand by and see the future of America squandered to enrich OPEC?
How can we stand by and let global warming ruin our planet? Yes, some of us are still arguing that global warming really isn’t happening, even though the news before us indicates the ice on the Arctic Ocean will be totally melted this summer for the first time in human history.
Rural electric cooperatives worked to bring electricity to our rural areas. Why can’t this work to send some electricity back?
It’s time for us to take care of our wallets and our environment right in our own neighborhood. Those who would say otherwise just aren’t our friends.
So, Jerry, would you let those turbines and solar collectors ruin the beauty of our skyline?
Well, I share your inhibitions regarding spoiling beauty, but I also realize I have learned to look past the frequent ugliness of transformers, power lines and highway surfaces.
So, Jerry, are you an engineer that you think you have the technical prowess for this proposal?
No, I’m not an engineer, but I love it when those people put money in my pocket and increase my personal well-being.
So, Jerry, what about state statutes and federal laws usurping the Kansas Corporation Commission—and all those other things that might get in the way?
Yes, I am acquainted with the stagnancy of bureaucracy. Remember, I said we were jumping out of the kitty litter for this. This is the good side of attorneys—to help move us around this heap of stuff.
See what happens when you let a Jerry Engler out of his box? Lord, think of what I would do if I were a T. Boone Pickens. Now there’s a box worth stepping out of.