Good morning, troops. It's Wednesday, May 23.
Plenty of Eureka residents had plenty of questions for a representative of a company that wants to build a solar-power farm at the edge of town.
Mike Barry was honest about his ability to respond.
"There's probably a million questions that I won't have answers for tonight," the SolAmerica Energy director of land development said Tuesday. "I'll just say right now I won't have the answer to everything. I think that's probably a fair statement."
With uncertainty all around, the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals decided to defer a recommendation about whether the proposed solar farm should proceed. It's expected to be discussed again June 26.
By then, SolAmerica might have more details regarding design, materials and methods regarding its plan to place as many as 8,000 solar panels within a few hundred feet of a Eureka neighborhood. Or SolAmerica might not.
"I just would like to have full information," board member Teresa Gauger said.
The only full entity might have been the Woodford County Board meeting room, where the zoning hearing that lasted more than two hours was conducted.
A standing-room crowd of about 100 came to hear Barry state SolAmerica's case. Some also came to provide evidence and opinion against it.
The solar farm on unincorporated land near Eureka Lake would produce 3.2 million kilowatts of energy annually, enough to power 300 to 400 houses, according to Barry. The location is optimal for SolAmerica because it's close to two Ameren Illinois substations.
"We think it's in a good spot on the grid," Barry said.
Every one of at least eight people who addressed the board didn't concur with Barry. They cited multiple potential problems. Among them were possible, additional flooding because of increased water runoff from solar panels.
Water runoff already is an issue in Eureka, according to Mayor Scott Zimmer.
"I don't think anybody can say this will not create more water running ... across our streets, into our lake and past our sewer plant, which is a huge problem," he said.
Solar-panel safety also was questioned. Toxicity of materials used to make the panels wasn't clear. Neither was how the panels might withstand a tornado or wind storm.
Residents of Marshall Road, which borders the 52-acre location, appeared the most concerned.
"I've got three small children, and I'm going to be 700 feet from that site," David Prather said. "To not know what the long-term effect is on my kids, that has an incredible effect on me."
Said another Marshall Road resident, Gene Rossetti: "(It's) just a rotten neighbor for us."
Barry said little that assuaged their concerns. He admitted there are a lot of unknowns, a point of agreement with the solar-farm opponents.
Formal engineering plans for the farm apparently haven't been drawn and usually aren't by this stage of development, Barry suggested. Cost, which can range from $30,000 to $40,000, is a factor.
"If we get schematics done and we don't get a permit, that's money down the drain," Barry said. "We'll have to weigh all the risks. Are we willing to do that, or does it just (not) make sense?"
The song heard on the way to work asks a question the zoning board answered, provided SolAmerica has more detail by late June.