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Local Column

Olson: Landfill? OK. Windmills? No way.

DeKalb County Board member Dan Cribben speaks Wednesday during the meeting in the auditorium at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau in Sycamore. The board was discussing whether to pass the final draft of the county wind ordinance during the meeting.
DeKalb County Board member Dan Cribben speaks Wednesday during the meeting in the auditorium at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau in Sycamore. The board was discussing whether to pass the final draft of the county wind ordinance during the meeting.

DeKalb County Board members should have paid more heed to Dan Cribben.

Cribben, a Republican from Somonauk, is a board member whose district actually includes wind turbines. A former member of the Indian Creek School District 425 Board, he saw the way that the district benefited from the increased tax revenue the turbines generated. The added money helped the district launch initiatives such as adding technology to its classrooms.

Cribben also knows how the turbines can generate extra income for landowners and create jobs. He told us about this when he visited with our Editorial Board this fall, a few weeks before he was re-elected to represent District 11 on the County Board.

Before the County Board ultimately passed a restrictive wind ordinance that exceeded the recommendations of the Illinois Pollution Control Board and the hearing officer it hired to form an opinion after public hearings on the matter, Cribben made an attempt to modify the ordinance. He wanted to make it workable for wind developers such as San Diego-based EDF Energy, which had proposed a new wind project in the northwest part of the county.

Maybe he should have tried sooner than just before a vote on the ordinance. Regardless, he was unsuccessful.

Instead, the county passed an ordinance to please the “no wind” crowd – one regulating wind farms more tightly than virtually any other industry in the county, essentially “regulating” the proposal by EDF out of existence.

That was the easy thing to do. Even though there already are wind turbines in the community, this time, emotion won out over sensible regulation.

Maybe if there had been something in it for the county, their tune would have been different.

It’s not as though the County Board has a long record of preventing projects that people consider objectionable. The board was OK with expanding the landfill south of Cortland by almost 600 acres in 2010. That decision now brings trucks loaded with all manner of waste to DeKalb County almost daily, and it will for years to come.

The current board members voted in

May 2017 to expand the amount of waste the landfill takes in by 40 percent. Waste Management now can dump 700,000 tons of waste a year south of Cortland. More trash means more “tipping fee” revenue for the county, so we have to have it, you see.  

Dozens of semitrailers loaded with trash can trek to DeKalb County each day. Sometimes they catch on fire or collide with other vehicles and make a disgusting mess on public roads. People can smell it. But we live with it.

In the case of the landfill, the Illinois Pollution Control Board recommendations were perfectly suitable. But then, the county needed that landfill project and all that trash each year to build the big new jail that now towers over the Sycamore library.

Clean energy and more money for rural schools and private landowners in our community – there wasn’t anything much in it for the county on that. It might have made $100,000 more a year, but that’s barely enough to build a couple of decent pole barns.

Maybe if the next wind developer comes up with a plan to build something for the county, it will get a friendlier reception. But there may not be anymore developers knocking on the door in light of the ordinance that board members just passed.

Although that pleases some people, many others in the community are losing out on an opportunity that could have benefited the greater community.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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