Ford County landowners finally to receive property tax bills

PAXTON — Finally, real estate tax bills will be sent out to property owners in Ford County.

County Treasurer Krisha Shoemaker told the Ford County Board on Monday night that the bills are at the printer’s and residents should receive them late this week or early next week. First-installment payments will be due July 27, with the second installment due Sept. 7.

Recent turmoil in the Ford County Supervisor of Assessments Office led to the delay. Patricia Langland resigned as supervisor of assessments earlier this year, and her replacement, Kim Hooper, was only recently appointed. Since then, Hooper has been reorganizing the office and catching up on tasks not completed previously.

Wind ordinance changes
Also Monday night, the county board agreed that another meeting of the zoning committee will be needed in order to approve proposed changes to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms. Last month, the committee voted unanimously to pass on its proposed changes to the planning commission. But the committee’s chairman, Dave Hastings, wants to change the fees that a wind-farm company must pay for a building permit — and that still needs to be voted on.

County board member Tom McQυinn said what the committee voted on “was never written down on paper,” and he objected to that.

“The committee had nothing in front of them to vote on,” McQuinn said.

The proposed changes were emailed to the board prior to Monday’s meeting.

After the zoning board finalizes the proposed changes, the county’s planning commission will decide whether to concur with the proposal, which then would advance to the county’s zoning board of appeals for its consideration. That zoning board would then conduct a public hearing on the ordinance and can concur with the changes or vote them down. Finally, the document would go before the full county board, which would then need to approve it.

Two members of the Sibley Village Board told the county board of their support for the Apex Clean Energy wind farm planned for the Gibson City and Sibley area. Sibley Village Board President Jim Kearney said village trustees have approved a resolution supporting the development of the project, and Trustee Ben Wurmnest indicated his own support, as well.

Also addressing the board was David Loomis, an economics professor at Illinois State University. His firm, Stategic Economic Research LLC, was commissioned by Apex to study the economic impact of Apex’s proposed wind farm on Ford County. Loomis concluded that the wind farm would bring 475 new jobs during construction and 41 new long-term jobs to the county.

Loomis also predicted $31.3 million of tax revenue to the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school district, $9.4 million to the county and $8.3 million to the townships over the life of the project.

However, resident Joanne Fetzner urged the board not to be in such a hurry and requested that an attorney with familiarity with wind farms review the revised ordinance.

Fetzner said she has concerns about turbine setbacks when the wind-energy industry recommends a 1,640-foot evacuation radius around wind turbines. Fetzner said she also has concerns about decommissioning requirements.

“The wind companies are getting everything they want,” Fetzner said. “We’ll be looking at their mess for a long time.”

Erin Baker, representing Apex, thanked the zoning committee for its work and the Sibley trustees for their attendance at the meeting. Baker said the proposed ordinance changes are a significant compromise.

“This provides regulatory certainty,” Baker said. “In a $500 million project, time is the enemy.”

Other business
Also Monday night:

➜ The board approved paying $6,000 each by the circuit clerk’s and sheriff’s offices to Bellwether LLC to examine the fee structures in those departments. The state says that if counties raise their fees, they must present justification for those increases.

➜ The board accepted the resignations of Ford County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Dennis Higgins and Ford County Board of Review member Robert Link. County Board Chairman Randy Berger said the county will advertise for a person to fill Higgins’ position.

➜ The board approved its annual prevailing wage ordinance, re-appointed Duane Meister as a trustee for the Cullom Fire Protection District board, appointed Roger Gualandi as a trustee for the Kempton Community Fire Protection District board and approved the nominations of various election judges.

Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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