The Marion County Commissioners were cautiously optimistic when the county engineer provided updates on Enel Green Power, owners of the Diamond Vista wind farm project at its meeting Oct. 7.
Brice Goebel, the county engineer, said at a recent meeting with representatives from Diamond Vista, both Tanner Yost with Kirkham Michael, and Jesse Hamm, county road and bridge, indicated they saw a “change in attitude”.
The change, he said, was positive regarding the road situation, and getting them approved and cleared by KM before turning them back over to the county.
“We still have no schedules,” he said. “I did receive an email (from Diamond Vista) that Goldenrod, west, was ready to be accepted.”
Commission chairman Kent Becker asked if that area would work hand-in-hand with the phase system the commission approved at its last meeting?
Goebel said: “It’s a start.”
However, county clerk Tina Spencer, reminded the commission that prior to clearing and accepting any of these roads, a modified road maintenance agreement was needed.
The renewed cooperation by EGP, Goebel said, could have had something to do with a recent state energy meeting Yost attended.
“Whether that created some of the changes,” he said, “I’m not sure, but a lot of people were talking about this.”
Commissioner Dianne Novak said she talks to different commissioners in other counties, and those officials are watching.
“All eyes are on Marion County, and how we are being treated,” Novak said.
One of the directives from the Sept. 30 meeting was for Brad Jantz, county counselor, Yost, Goebel and Hamm, to determine how many phases were needed to break down roads into smaller sections.
Goebel suggested four or five phases as something that could be agreed on because many of the roads have a lot of issues, but a lot of them don’t, he said.
The plan is also to amend the RMA so it’s not “all or nothing” on the roads.
Regarding the timeline for getting all the phases completed, Dallke reiterated that if it wasn’t met, EGP could pay the county instead.
Goebel said the biggest concern he sees with a shorter timeline, which was something EGP wants to aim for, is that the shorter the deadline, the more equipment coming in. This could mean the possibility of other road issues.
Commissioner Randy Dallke asked Goebel if a 30-day timeline would be too aggressive or too lax?
“Seems that would be fair,” Goebel said. “The work can get done, but we would be holding their feet to the fire.”
Along with the deadlines, Goebel said, there’s still the issue of flood plain permits that Sharon Omstead, director of planning and zoning needs.
“The biggest problem is going to be documentation on ditches, structures and other high dollar items (like culverts),” Goebel said. “
The key is getting adequate culverts and other needed road repairs, he added.
“The trust is in you,” Dallke said, “because we are all anxious to get this over and done with.”
Some of the issues that continue to be problems on these roads, Goebel said, include ditch damage from vehicles and equipment, the need for more surface gravel, potholes, deep ruts, blade work and some are just rough roads.
The commission will continue to monitor the progress.
The commissioners will not meeting on Oct. 14, but will meet on Oct. 21.