The Pratt County Planning and Zoning Board approved NextEra Energy's application for the Pratt Energy Wind Farm. The Pratt County Commissioners will have a public hearing on the matter at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5 in the Commission room before taking a final vote on the wind farm.

A second wind farm in Pratt County is one step closer to reality after the Pratt County Planning and Zoning Board approved the NextEra Special Use Application at their meeting Jan. 16.

The application now goes to the Pratt County Commissioners who will hold a public hearing on the proposed wind farm at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb 5 in the Commission Room in the Pratt County Courthouse. The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comment on the application. Following the hearing, the commissioners will vote with four options: Approve the project, disapprove the project, modify the project or table the project.

Concerning the Planning and Zoning decision, the public can file protest petitions with the Pratt County Clerk for the next two weeks. Petitions have to be in the clerk's office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

If the County Commissioners approve the project, NextEra will then have to complete a road use agreement and complete work on a decommission bond that has to be in place for the future if and when the wind farm is dismantled.

About 70 were in attendance at the three hour Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Sam Massey, NextEra Energy project manager for the Pratt Energy Farm, gave a detailed description of the many surveys and steps needed to comply with local, state and federal requirements to build a wind farm.

Massey said one of NextEra's core values was excellence and he holds himself and his team to the goal.

Several members of the audience spoke in favor and against the farm. Adrian Harold, manager of the NextEra Ninnescah wind farm in Pratt County said the new wind farm was a wonderful opportunity for Pratt and Kingman Counties. His job had a better starting salary like nothing in Kingman County. The pay is consistent because wind energy is not a boom industry. Paul Baird of Goodland, manger of the NextEra Kingman wind farm, said it was a good opportunity for him and he could support his family.

Alan Albers of Cunningham said stories in the Pratt Tribune were biased and didn't tell the entire story. He said he had three brothers with wind generators and the only problem was it interfered with their TV antennas but NextEra paid for cable. He said he didn't believe he had seen any adverse effects, it helped the economy and there were lots of pluses.

"I don't think the publication (Pratt Tribune story) did it justice," Albers said.

Steve Brehm said the project would put money in Pratt County. Paul Bryan said he favored progress and the development of a wind farm was like other development the drove the county forward.

Chris Eubank said his neighbors wind generators would surround his house and he was concerned that the towers would interfere with the his ability to get his crops sprayed. Travis Davis said his property was also surrounded and block his view. This will impact generations in the county having to hear and see the turbines and their constant blinking lights at night all the way around his house. He said the people building the wind farm don't have to live there and deal with it. He was also concerned what happens if the turbines are abandoned. Jan Parsons wanted to know the exact boundaries of the project. Lori Newquist wanted to know how she was going to drive past the wind turbines because she has vertigo and the generators make her dizzy. She was frustrated that she had just spent over $6,000 to paint her barn and now there would be a generator on the next door property.

Massey responded to the questions and encouraged them to contact him on any issue.

Planning and Zoning Commission members are Daryl Trimpe, Charles Riffey, Jason Griffith, Morgan Trinkle, Ted Loomis-chair, Rick Shriver-secretary, Ross Schiffelbein, Doug Freund and Brad Swisher. Trimpe and Trinkle were not present, Riffey recused himself and Swisher, Shriver and Loomis abstained from voting because of conflict of interest.

Loomis said it was important for the public to share their concerns because it helped the board make their decision.

Pratt County Planning and Zoning Administrator Tim Branscom, said some 1,462 notifications of the meeting were sent to landowners in the proposed wind farm site.

Pratt Energy Wind Farm Stats: 243.3 Mega Watt facility; 106 turbines (98 will be built in Reno County) with 25 feet deep bases; 15 miles of 345 Kilovolt transmission line; 40,000 acres; 100 percent on private property; 250 jobs during construction; 12-15 permanent jobs; $50 million paid to landowners over the 30-year span of the project. Payments come in whether the or not the farm is producing energy; $20 million to $21 million to Pratt County in Payment in Lieu of Tax; 228 acres total wind turbine footprint.

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