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Tazewell County casts a shadow over proposed solar farm projects

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman (left) makes an announcement about public comment Wednesday prior to the Tazewell County Board meeting while board vice chairman Mike Harris listens.
Steve Stein
Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman (left) makes an announcement about public comment Wednesday prior to the Tazewell County Board meeting while board vice chairman Mike Harris listens.

The Tazewell County Board put the brakes on two proposed solar farm projects Wednesday.

By 10-8 votes, the board rejected Catmint Solar's request for a two-year extension of a special use permit granted May 31,2023 for a 5 mega-watt solar farm on Eisele Road in Groveland Township, and Coyote Road Solar's request for a special use permit for a 150 mega-watt solar farm on 1,300 acres of prime farm land in Malone and Delevan townships near Tazewell County's borders with Mason and Logan counties.

Catmint Solar's special use permit will expire Friday.

Each proposed solar farm is in an Agriculture Preservation District. That's why a special use permit was needed for their project.

East Peoria officials expressed their opposition last year to the Catmint Solar project, saying they didn't want to lose a possible place for growth.

"Do we really want to go against the wishes of the leaders of the county's second-largest city behind Pekin?" said board member Russ Crawford.

Twelve land owners agreed to lease their land for the Coyote Road Solar project.

"I'm not in favor of the solar movement, but we shouldn't have a say on these projects," said board member Sam Goddard. "We don't own the land."

One board member in, one board member out

The board gained a member and lost a member Wednesday.

Mackinaw resident Eric Schmidgall was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of Washington resident Sierra Smith in District 3, and the board accepted the resignation of District 2 board member Randi Krehbiel of Hopedale.

Schmidgall was the top vote-getter in the March 19 Republican primary in a four-way race for three open seats in District 3. No Democrats are expected to run for those seats in the Nov. 5 general election.

Smith's term -- now Schmidgall's term -- expires this year. Schmidgall would remain on the ballot if he doesn't run for Smith's former seat.

Krehbiel submitted a resignation letter to board chairman David Zimmerman.

"I have had an amazing opportunity come my way and I'm struggling to juggle it all plus be a good mom to my kids," Krehbiel wrote. "I have enjoyed every minute and I plan to return to local government in the near future."

Krehbiel's term expires this year. A replacement will be appointed by the board.

New siding at future Tazewell County Health Department site, Towerline Road improvement approved

Also Wednesday, the board approved:

* A contract with low bidder GIVSCO Construction of Pekin for $100,555 to replace the siding at 1800 Broadway Road in Pekin, the future home of the Tazewell County Health Department.

* A contract with lone bidder R.A. Cullinan & Son of Tremont for $345,701 for bituminous surface treatment of Towerline Road.

* A grant payment of $100,000 to the Tazewell County Resource Center to help pay for the addition of restrooms on the first floor and updates to elevators to better suit the needs of persons with disabilities at TCRC's building at 33 S. Fourth St. in downtown Pekin.

* Using $50,000 in national opioid settlement funds for prevention and education efforts including $27,522 for personnel and $5,000 for a speaker to tour Tazewell County schools during the Red Ribbon Week drug-use prevention effort in October.

* A change in the polling location for Pekin Precinct 14 from the former Rogers Elementary School in Marquette Heights to the UFCW Union Hall in Marquette Heights. Rogers is no longer being used as a school.

* The appointment of Richard Schwab to the Board of Review.

Tazewell County Election Division receives two national awards

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman announced to the board Wednesday that his department's Election Division had received two 2023 honorable mention Clearinghouse Awards from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The awards are presented annually to election authorities across the nation for best practices in election administration. Tazewell County's Election Division is the first local election authority in Illinois receive a Clearinghouse Award, according to Ackerman.

The division earned an award for moving its election results tabulation center from the Tazewell County Courthouse in Pekin to the Tazewell County Emergency Management Building in Tremont, and streamlining its operations there to decrease the time needed to produce election results.

The other award was for the division's Illinois Election Integrity Outreach Initiative that was launched in 2023. The outreach highlights election procedures and policies and is supported by 25 other local election authorities in Illinois.

Many of the other award recipients are larger election authorities including the state of Mississippi, Los Angeles County and Denver city clerk.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.