Public Service Commission holds meeting for proposed windfarms

Three sites proposed by Liberty Utilities

The public service commission held a public hearing on the campus of Missouri Southern to discuss Liberty Utilities – Empire District’s proposal for three wind farms in the area.

There are three sites for Liberty Utilities – Empire District to build it’s windfarms. Two sites are in Southwest Missouri, one southwest of Lamar called North Fork Ridge, the other, southeast of Lamar, called Kings Point. The third is in Neosho County, Kansas and is called Neosho Ridge.

Blake Mertens with Liberty says these new farms will have several benefits. Blake Mertens, Vice President of Operations for Liberty Utilities says “Very important, not only will it provide our customers savings, through their rates, but it also provides an economic driver to local residents, it will create jobs in the community, it’s about a $1.1 billion dollar overall investment.”

The Neosho County location has been the most contested however, sparking resident meetings to rally together and bring their concerns to Liberty. But there are those that see the benefits of the Neosho Ridge Project. Todd Umbarger says “We’ve got one of the highest tax levies for our school and our county’s real high, and all this money that comes in to our county will help reduce the taxes, and tax burden.”

Todd Umbarger is a land owner in Neosho County, and for him, his land value will actually increase, because of the windmills, and he feels others will as well. Umbarger says “You know you’ve got mom and pop farmers, 160, 200 acres so, they’re barely making it if they have a windmill on them, there’s $10,000 or so income a year, right off the top, of income, that can keep them on there.”

But not everyone feels the same way. Joe Fisher says “These things are just big ugly things, that make a bunch of noise, that just, we’re just not going to be able to stand to live in our home anymore.” Fisher and his wife have lived and worked in Neosho County nearly their entire lives. Now, he feels the county commissioners and Liberty, have abandoned him. Fisher says “I go around…I go around so mad all the time.”

But Mertens says Liberty has not abandoned residents like fisher. Mertens says “So what we’re doing is trying to meet with them and address some of their concerns.” Liberty will have another public service commission meeting in April in Jefferson City to continue advancing with the project, if approved.