Wind farm will impact Cassville airport

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The wind farm project in Exeter is still in the works as evidenced by a discussion held at the Cassville City Council meeting on Monday night.

Project developers are seeking a letter of support from the City of Cassville in reference to how the gigantic wind machines will affect the Cassville Municipal Airport. Members of the city's Airport Advisory Board met with John Hensley, project developer with Wind Capital Group out of Jefferson City, to discuss the issue last Friday, and Mike Schlichtman, a local pilot and member of the Airport Board, presented an informal report to city aldermen during Monday's meeting.
According to Schlichtman, the wind machines, including rotors, will tower 407 feet and will be located approximately 3.25 miles due west of the airport runway. The close proximity of the huge machines will require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase the airport's minimum descent altitude for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) approaches.

The altitude would be increased from 700 feet to 900 feet, which mean pilots flying IFR would need a cloud layer at or above 900 feet to land. Schlichtman said this adjustment would be a matter of inconvenience, not necessarily safety.

"If a pilot takes off to the west, they only have three miles to gain an altitude of 400 feet or more before they would run into a wind machine," Schlichtman said. "But Federal Aviation Regulations require that each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. In other words, a good pilot will know the wind farm is there.

"Basically, we have no problem with the plan and raising the minimum descent altitude," added Schlichtman. "This is a situation where the need of many far exceeds the need of the few. We don't think it's enough of an issue to try to stop the project, which we think will be very good for the county."

Wind Capital Group, a Missouri-based wind energy developer, is proposing to place 30 wind turbines on property owned by 16 different landowners. The site for the turbines was chosen based on wind studies that were conducted, and the location is one of the highest points in Barry County.

In March, Dean Baum-gardner, senior vice president of the Wind Capital Group, said the future of the project was dependent on the company's ability to secure financing.

If the wind farm becomes a reality, it will produce enough electricity to serve 20,000 to 30,000 houses. Each turbine consists of a 265-foot tower with three 140-foot blades that have a rotor diameter of 289 feet, which is the size of a football field.

Alderman Pete Landstad said he believed the city should write a letter of support for the project and how it will impact the local airport. Alderman Joe Cavness wanted to be sure the letter expressed a "cautious" approval.

"The letter needs to say we have heard concerns, but if the FAA approves it, we approve it," said Cavness.

The council directed City Administrator Mike Hayslip to write such a letter and mail it to the FAA.

In other business, the Cassville council:

• Held a public hearing and then passed an ordinance that sets the city property tax rate at $0.00.

• Heard a complaint from Jeremy Jaques, who owns property near 10th and Fair Streets. Jaques asked the council if there was anything that could be done to slow down traffic, especially around the curve where 10th Street turns into Fair Street. He suggested a speed bump or using a device that displays a person's speed as they drive by. The council asked Hayslip to meet with Police Chief Lonnie McCullough to investigate the situation and come up with some possible solutions.

• Discussed progress on finding a new compost site. Hayslip said he believed the city might have to purchase property for the site, because the city does not currently own a piece of property large enough.

• Approved bills totalling $261,550.39. This month's larger-than-normal expenses included a payment of $209,807.62 to Wal-Mart, which represents money the city owes the corporation for 15 months of the city's seven-year developers contract. Under the terms of the contract, the city will pay back Wal-Mart for financing intersection improvements at the Highway 37 and First Street interchange. The city will give Wal-Mart back half of the sales tax revenue it receives from the Wal-Mart Super-center above the revenue received when Wal-Mart operated in its old location. In the future, the sales tax receipts will be disbursed quarterly.

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