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County ups ante in wind farm road dispute

Staff writer

Who’s responsible for the weather is a key element of what’s likely to be a major lawsuit between the county and its northern wind farm.

County commissioners contend Diamond Vista is obligated to make $473,020 worth of road repairs. The wind farm contends some of the damage was caused by weather and not their responsibility. Commissioners consider storm damage to be an expected part of Kansas weather and the wind farm’s responsibility.

After nearly an hour in executive session with lawyers, commissioners voted unanimously Monday to have staff prepare documents seeking to collect road repair money from Diamond Vista wind farm.

Wichita lawyer Pat Hughes, originally hired as a county consultant for dealing with the wind farm, was retained to handle future action against Diamond Vista.

The county and Diamond Vista agreed on a road maintenance plan before work began in 2018, but weather and cost overruns by Kirkham Michael, the engineering firm hired to oversee construction on behalf of the county, sparked contention between the county and the wind farm.

Jeff Pimer, project manager for Enel Green Power, owner of the wind farm, said the company will work to resolve the road issue.

“Diamond Vista is a long-term partner with the Marion County community, and we have always stood firm in our commitment to meet our obligations under the road maintenance agreement,” Pimer said. “We are eager to continue conversations with county leaders in good faith to resolve any outstanding concerns.”

Kirkham Michael earlier reported that it would cost $473,020 to restore roads to pre-construction condition.

Kirkham Michael’s charges have been a point of disagreement since before project construction began.

Although Diamond Vista has paid Kirkham Michael’s bills, it has threatened to stop making payments in lieu of taxes that it is not obligated to make for 10 years.

Diamond Vista’s first payment to the county, made in December, was $269,325. It also made payments directly to Hillsboro and Centre school districts.

Last modified July 15, 2020

 

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