KOSCIUSKO — Elmer “EJ” Kirkpatrick, New Paris, was recognized at the Kosciusko Commissioners meeting held Tuesday, Feb. 19, for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. Kirkpatrick, a senior at Wawasee High School, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 726 out of North Webster.
Bob Bishop, president of Kosciusko County Farm Bureau, and Mike Long, Warsaw, addressed the commissioners to present information related to solar farms.
“Some of you may be aware that west of Leesburg there’s a big push for solar farms coming into the county,” said Bishop. “I’ve been contacted by two companies that want to use my farm ground to put solar panels on.”
Bishop told commissioners that one company was asking for between 1,000 to 2,000 acres to put solar panels on while the other company requested 800 to 1,600 acres.
“I just want the commissioners to be aware that this stuff is going on,” said Bishop. “If it went through and everybody signed up and they put that many acres into solar panels, we’re going to take out a lot of farm ground that supports a lot of businesses in Kosciusko County.”
“This evening there’s a meeting in Leesburg at the Lions Building by the one company to talk to some of us who have been contacted,” Bishop stated. “They paint a rosy picture of the whole thing, but they don’t have to look out their bedroom window or their front window and see solar panels for the rest of their life.”
“Farm Bureau does not have a position right now,” said Bishop. “This is a program that seems to be being promoted by NIPSCO because they’re going to eliminate four of their coal fire generator plants in the State of Indiana so they want to put solar in.”
Long added, “I look at this as another use of land and producing a commodity. Really no different than raising corn or soybeans. I would just hate to see the county have a stance on ‘You can do this with your land, but you can’t do this with your land.’ I don’t know enough about it to say if we should regulate it or not.”
“A month ago we put a moratorium on permits to give us time to research this,” said Kosciusko Commissioner President Cary Groninger. “I think there is opportunity there, by the same token, I really struggle with allowing them to take 1,500 to 2,000 acres of our most productive farm ground in our county out of production for solar panels.”
Commissioners asked for input from Kosciusko County Assistant Planning Director Matt Sandy.
“Up to last fall, we had nothing. We didn’t really address solar panels at all. At that time, we adopted regulations,” said Sandy. “I think we’re primarily talking here about the commercial solar farm.”
Sandy described the commercial solar farm as a solar facility whose primary purpose is to collect, store, convert and distribute solar energy to utility companies.
After confirming that this would not affect school projects or business projects, Groninger said, “I just want to be clear that we’re not trying to stomp out all green energy, but at the same token a farm like this is just a whole other animal.”
After much discussion, the possibility of a 90-day extension of the moratorium was raised.
Bishop then stated that he has been in contact with the Indiana Farm Bureau legal team.
“They’ve dealt with some solar issues in the State of Indiana and there is a possibility I will have them come up and make a presentation to the people who are involved with this, and if the commissioners want to come or anyone else, that would be an open invitation,” said Bishop.
Sandy told commissioners if the moratorium is something they would like to pursue, it could be advertised for the next planning commission meeting.
“We could get that in place and then bring it to you for adoption before the other one expires,” said Sandy.
A motion was passed stating that this is the direction commissioners would like the Area Planning Commission to pursue.
County Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden requested that the bid opening for the bridge #9 project at Deed’s Creek be canceled and rescheduled for March 19. All bids must be received by 9 a.m. on that date and will be opened at 9:15 a.m. Design changes have been made, requiring that bids be resubmitted with specifications for the new design. This was approved by commissioners.
- Commissioners approved Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes’ request to apply for a grant through Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
- Commissioners approved a request by Mark Hochstetler to rezone a 5-acre tract of ground on CR 1350N from residential to agricultural.
- Commissioners gave approval for Brian Erne to rezone a 1.2-acre tract of land from agricultural to residential.
- Attorney Steve Snyder, representing Jeff Heffelfinger, requested an encroachment agreement to allow a shed to remain at the public right-of-way at the residence of 54 EMS B61 Lane, Warsaw. Commissioners approved the agreement.
- Commissioners approved Snyder’s request for an encroachment agreement related to a property in Atwood.
- Commissioners approved two quotes submitted by County Administrator Marsha McSherry. The first was a quote from Cottage Watchman Security Systems, Pierceton, for five dome cameras and eight outdoor security lights in the amount of $8,430. The second quote, from Security Automation Systems, Indianapolis, in the amount of $21,210, relates to the purchase and installation of virtual panic buttons at the courthouse.
- The next regular meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 5.