When a wind farm — or other alternative energy development — inevitably blows through Wood County, commissioners must be ready to embrace it and use it to transform schools.

Tony Zartman, Deputy Director of Programs and Operations for the Land and Liberty Coalition, recently gave a presentation to Wood County Commissioners.

Zartman said he was a former Paulding County commissioner, serving for 12 years.

“I’m extremely passionate about alternative energy and the benefits…to the community,” he said.

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum asked him to share his knowledge and experience. Both the forum and the Land and Liberty Coalition are nonprofits, Zartman said.

The objective is to develop alternative energies and to protect the property rights of individuals who wish to rent their property.

He gave the commissioners some information about Paulding County.

“We are an extremely flat rural community that depends on agriculture for 100% of our economy,” Zartman said. “We have very little business development and we recognize that we probably never will because we don’t have the employees.”

He became commissioner in 2009 when “we were almost broke as a community”.

Wind energy companies have begun looking to Paulding County for development.

“Due to the fact that we are flat, very few trees and quite high actually up to elevation.”

Commissioners, however, were skeptical, Zartman said.

“We were a little scared, really unprepared,” he said. “The main question we were asked about was how this entity would be taxed, if we allowed it in our community.”

They developed the language and set up an energy zone.

“These payments to schools would be considered new money by the state and would not be subject to the state funding formula.

“The funding formula money would not decrease because of this development. It was a major issue for us. »

Within months, two wind farms were under development. There are now 250 turbines, Zartman said.

“And it’s completely changed our community as far as the economy goes. The landowners love the payouts they’re getting. The school districts – the difference it makes to them. They were really hurting in 2009 and 2010.”

They have hired additional teachers, offer new programs including extracurricular activities.

“Our teacher-student ratio has gone down significantly. It completely changed our community,” Zartman said. “My passion when I left the commissioners office was that I wanted other communities to see this.”

He was asked to join the Conservative Energy Forum and help educate communities.

“I’ve spoken to so many commissioners across the state who claim they’re huge property rights advocates, when it comes to their property.

“Then they say they won’t allow their neighbor to have a wind farm on their property because they don’t want to see it.”

Zartman said commissioners should be prepared.

“The developers are looking at every county in the state — and I mean every county,” he said. “You will be asked to consider development.

“The developers will ask you to consider a payment pilot program. Your landowners are going to ask you to allow it. And you are also going to be asked by the anti-wind group not to allow it. It puts you right in the middle.

He said he was at the meeting to educate and offer help.

Commissioner Ted Bowlus asked him to explain the pilot payment program

Zartman said it allowed commissioners to cap the payment per megawatt that would go to the tax district and/or county general fund.

He said $9,000 is the cap.

Commissioners can set service fees that would go into the county’s general fund.

For example, if $2,000 were contributed to the county general fund, then the remaining $7,000 would be distributed to that tax district based on the percentage of mileage that is in that district.

“It’s a little confusing at first, but it’s a wonderful program,” Zartman said. “We haven’t had any complaints.”

He said his house is in the middle of a wind development.

“It’s as common as the power lines that run along all the roads in our community,” he said.

Zartman said solar is a “different little animal.”

Commissioner Craig LaHote asked if township administrators were allowed to stop developments.

“The township does not have the legal authority to dictate what will happen,” Zartman said. “It falls on your shoulders.”

According to documentation provided by Zartman, the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum was founded in 2015 to provide a forum for conservatives to discuss a diversified energy portfolio.

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