County approves permit for wind energy test tower
LEXINGTON—Dawson County got one step closer last week to being the home of a wind energy farm.
Following a public hearing at their regular bimonthly meeting on Thursday, county commissioners approved a special use permit for Geronimo Wind Energy of Edina, MN, to construct a test tower 5 miles east and 2 miles north of Farnam.
The 197-foot meteorological tower will measure sustainable wind so Geronimo can determine the best turbine layout to optimize wind power.
The structure is temporary, Charlie Daum told commissioners. If the company is successful in constructing the wind farm, the tower would no longer be necessary.
But the test tower will need to operate for more than a year to collect accurate data, said Daum, director of development for Geronimo.
Commissioners questioned the tower’s compliance with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
Daum said although the tower falls below the 200-foot height requiring FAA markings, Geronimo intends to paint the top third alternating red and white as per FAA guidelines as well as marking each of the four guide wires with one red ball.
Commissioners asked Daum to use two red balls each on the guide wires to make them more visible for the area’s small commercial spray planes. Daum agreed.
He also said Geronimo would likely allow a law enforcement communication antenna to be attached to the tower.
Sheriff Gary Reiber inquired about the antenna, saying signals in the Farnam area are often inadequate because there is no repeater antenna there.
The next step in the tower construction process will be environmental studies.
In other action, commissioners agreed to consider a resolution presented by Project Extra Mile which would change language and add stipulations to the issuance of special designated liquor licenses.
Project Extra Mile coalition member Kurt McBride, Dawson County’s deputy attorney, told county board members the proposed resolution puts more restrictions and conditions on applicants for special designated liquor licenses used for sale of alcohol off the site of the business owner’s property.
The proposal addresses increased security, prohibits free alcohol and requires responsible server training, among other provisions.
“The biggest issue is fencing,” McBride said. “All protections fall short if we’re allowing combined space for eligible drinkers and non-eligible drinkers.”
McBride said double fencing is included in the state statutes in an attempt to prevent alcohol from being handed to underage drinkers outside the sales area.
“It’s not something new,” he said, “it’s just not always enforced.”
Dawson County issues fewer than 10 special designated liquor licenses each year. More are allowed within the county’s cities.
Commissioners agreed to consider the proposed resolution with added restrictions if it is uniform across the county.
In other business, the county board:
adopted a contract with the City of Cozad for the sheriff’s office to provide temporary part-time law enforcement as needed for the Cozad Police Department.
Sheriff Gary Reiber said the Cozad department is understaffed while it waits for officer candidates to complete law enforcement training.
The agreement, which includes payment at actual officer cost of $20 per hour, will end in December or be renegotiated.
appointed Becky Funk of Overton to the extension board to fill the remainder of the term for Julie Otero, who resigned after having moved out of the county.
approved changing the curriculum for the Safety Training Option Program (STOP) from an eight-hour class to four hours to match the state’s new requirements. STOP classes offer defensive driving instruction as pretrial diversion for minor traffic infractions.
voted to reduce the speed limit west of Highway 283 on West Prospect Road south of Lexington from 50 to 45 as a transition to the 35 mph speed limit inside the city limits.
reviewed the three applications received for the highway superintendent/engineer position and agreed to set up interviews.