PREBLE COUNTY — During their meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15, the Preble County Commissioners noted receipt of and signed a Road Use and Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) for the Alamo Solar Project between the Board of Preble County Commissioners, Gasper Township Trustees, Washington Township Trustees, and Alamo Solar I LLC.
David Woodruff asked the board for details on the contract, noting, it has been a while since they’ve had any updates on the project.
“We’ve had meetings in here with [Preble County Engineer Kyle Cross], because he has been working on the RUMA for quite a while with our prosecutor. From discussions we’ve had, I really feel like we’ve protected the county and townships,” Commission President Denise Robertson said.
“[Cross] will be taking pictures of the roads in their current conditions and if there is any damage they will pay the entire cost of any damage done to the roads. I feel good about the Road Use and Maintenance Agreement.”
Commissioner Creech added, “This should have been talked about in Columbus. The RUMA was a major part of that. We’ve bought an $80,000 drone, which is built into their contract. We will fly [the drone] over and check the roads, before and after. This is to cover our butts, is what it is. They’re going to leave the roads better than what they found them.”
Members of the public asked if this was all in writing and the board responded it is. They also asked if they could see the agreement and Commissioner Creech responded they could do a public records request and have a copy.
The board was also asked how many semi loads of materials would be traveling the roads. Creech responded, they were told 1,200 semi loads.
He shared additional statistics on semis traveling Preble County roads and then said, “The amount of traffic during construction to me is irrelevant, considering that is what our roads are for.”
Kenneth Kolb shared his concerns with the roads and school buses.
“These roads are so narrow now, as farmers we have to get over to let them by, but what are they going to do when schools lets in and out in the morning? It is Preble Shawnee and Eaton school districts,” he said.
Commission President Robertson replied, she hopes these concerns were shared during the public meeting held in Columbus. She added, she hopes the construction company will be “aware and thoughtful” of the school buses. There will also be a contact number for the county to contact during construction with any questions or concerns.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Katie West was invited down to the meeting to speak further on the RUMA.
“Even the future road use has been addressed in this project, in that, when it is time to be torn down, the future road use is accounted for,” Robertson said.
Commissioner Chris Day added, nobody can block the road unless it is pre-planned with the proper individuals notified.
West added, the RUMA states the company must put the roads back in the same condition they were found in, however, the county wanted to make sure the company did not use data from the roads in January through March or April. During those months, the roads are in their worst condition. The roads must be returned to the condition they are in during the majority of the year.
“That way they’re not looking at the worst date and saying, ‘Oh, we can put it back in the worst condition.’ I do know that is in [the RUMA] to assure our roads are maintained at the same level they are,” she said. “I don’t know if they’re going to have to do anything else to the roads to widen, I have no idea.”
Creech added, “I hope you understand, we’re looking out for the county, we’re looking out for the roads, we’re looking out for everybody that we can. We have a job to do. We have a professional engineer and a professional prosecutor’s office [putting] these documents together. We’re not willy-nillying this, this has been done very professionally. We’re trying to set precedence to the State here.
“I hope you have confidence – and I don’t think you do – but I hope you have confidence in what we’re trying to do here, because I am super confident in this document and the professionals who put it together. If you don’t feel confident in it – I understand your position on solar, [but] you have to understand that we’re neutral on this and we just want it to be done correctly. I just want to state that, because I feel like you have absolutely no confidence in us, just because you’re against the project.”
According to West, in the contract it is stated the solar company must let the Commission Office know when they are going to do work. Kolb added, there are already contractors on site. However, West clarified, they are not under contract yet.
“Our agreement has not gone into effect yet,” Robertson agreed.
Day added, they want to protect citizens “the best they can,” but they do not have any “teeth” until the contract is approved.
“Part of the reason we have done all the work we’ve done is because of you, because you have been drawing attention to [these issues.] We’re glad you come in and tell us what is going on. We’re neutral as a board, the State makes the decision, but because [you’ve drawn] attention to it, we have been diligent about making sure this does not cost us anything,” Robertson said.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH