County's windfall possibly blown on consultant's fees
Construction of the Diamond Vista wind farm in northern Marion County is almost complete, but consulting fees could take a large bite of the windfall the county expects to receive from the project.
County clerk Tina Spencer said that so far the county has paid Kirkham Michael, a consulting engineering firm hired to oversee construction, $688,971.33.
Although Diamond Vista agreed to reimburse the county for Kirkham Michael’s fees and has done so, a clause in the payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the wind farm and the county says that if engineering fees exceed $250,000, any amounts beyond that could, at Diamond Vista’s option, be deducted from money the wind farm will pay the county.
Before all can be considered said and done with wind farm construction, the county and Diamond Vista must agree that roads used by the wind farm are in the same or better condition as before construction began.
Recent discussions between county officials and wind farm officials have at times been contentious, and Kirkham Michael has frequently been at the center of those discussions.
Diamond Vista developers say Kirkham Michael has been adversarial toward them.
Kirkham Michael isn’t finished yet.
“Diamond Vista has formally notified the county that construction is complete,” said Jeff Pimer, junior project manager for Diamond Vista. “Under the terms of the road maintenance agreement, the consultant’s role now is to perform a post-construction inventory, which identifies any final remaining road maintenance items. We are ready to fulfill our obligations and bring this process to a close.”
However, Diamond Vista is not saying whether it will reduce payments to the county. Payments are to begin after final inspections and repairs.
Matt Epting, spokesman for Diamond Vista, said the company declines to comment on payments at this time.
However, Epting did say the county, not Diamond Vista, hired Kirkham Michael.
Payments in lieu of taxes are meant to offset tax money the county would otherwise gain during the first 10 years of wind farm operation, when the wind farm is not subject to being taxed.
Last modified Oct. 30, 2019