The board invited APEX representative Sarah Moser to answer some of the board members’ questions regarding the ongoing wind turbine issue and how the district should vote on the issue, if at all.
Numerous community members showed up and spoke during the public participation section of the board meeting, asking the board to remain neutral on the matter.
“I’m asking that you remain neutral,” one Willard man said. “Bellevue officially removed their support (of the wind turbine project). They will remain neutral. Seneca (East Local Schools) has intervened. Monroeville remains neutral. Your focus should be on the school and the students, not to endorse political issues one way or another.”
Many people echoed that statement, including one woman who asked the board to consider how their endorsement or lack thereof could affect the local voters. She said some make voting decisions based on what “community leaders” say are best instead of doing the research themselves. The woman said this places an extra weight of responsibility on the board to refrain from getting involved in what she called political affairs.
“Why would the school support something that effects the entire district?” she said. “Staying neutral would be best so people can vote how they want, so they can decide what’s best for themselves.”
Other complaints cited the board’s lack of consideration for the environmental and aesthetic effects the turbines could have on the surrounding areas.
One man asked the board to “look at the long-term view — existential threat to our community's beauty” and told board members they needed to “educate yourselves” on the matter.
“I’m very disturbed to think of monster turbines right by my house,” another person said.
Moser encouraged the board not to lose sight though of what their decision actually means.
“It's not a political issue, but it’s become one,” the APEX representative said. “I don't know when renewable energy became a political issue, but it’s being portrayed as one now. ... If it's best best for your community to stay neutral, stay neutral. There’s a lot of fear mongering out there. You need to do what’s best for your community.”
Board member Marsha Danhoff, who was again voted in as the vice president, said the board wasn’t viewing their decision as a political one.
“Our support on this wasn't that we were supporting the project,” she said. “We didn't support that they would or wouldn't be put up. We were just under the impression this decision was about whether this would or wouldn't be beneficial to the school.”
Moser said if the project is approved, with the projected 12 turbines in the district with 4.2 to 4.5 megawatt towers, Willard schools would stand to receive up to $300,000.
“The money is important to the school district and it does effect the students,” she said.
One man who stood up and spoke to the board after APEX’s presentation, Gordon Roth, asked board members to consider going to receive “unbiased education” on the issue. He invited the board and community to a “pro-wind vs. anti-wind” public debate that is set to take place from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at Tiffin University.
At the end of the two-plus hour meeting, board member Rod Cok moved to have the decision on the wind project tabled until after the board is able to attend the Feb. 19 debate to receive more information on the issue — a motion which passed unanimously.
The board then would need to schedule a special meeting in February if it wanted to make an official vote before the regularly scheduled March 11 meeting.