Power plant opponents move forward with attorney

OAKWOOD HILLS – As residents wait for Oakwood Hills to resume village business after shutting down because of unspecified threats, opponents to the proposed $450 million power plant have acquired legal representation to help in their mission.

Stemming from an online fundraising campaign that has raised about $17,500 in 20 days, opponents hired Woodstock attorney and former McHenry Mayor Steve Cuda to help challenge the effort to bring a 430-megawatt, natural gas power plant to Oakwood Hills.

Cuda, who successfully defeated a proposed power plant in McHenry County in 1999, said he has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Oakwood Hills to obtain supplemental material, meeting minutes and any potential history and communication between village officials and developers.

He said he would go over all the findings with his clients before deciding whether legal action would be necessary before a decision is made by the Village Board on whether to accept the power plant proposal.

When Cuda receives those files remains unclear and could cause a separate legal issue.

Village officials announced the suspension of public business Saturday morning after Village President Melanie Funk said threats created an unsafe workplace. Cuda filed his FOIA request July 31, giving the village until Thursday to respond. No response was received.

“The law is very clear on a what a business day is,” Cuda said. “Weekends and holidays do not count, but I don’t think a voluntary shutdown qualifies.”

Village Police Chief Peter Goldman declined to comment on the nature of the reported threats and whether they were verbal, physical or through electronic communication. He also declined to comment on whether a threat was still present that would keep the village from resuming business, but said all threats whether physical or verbal are taken seriously.

Even some on the Village Board are unsure of when village business will resume.

Trustee Paul Smith said he has not been told when business would resume but wanted to let residents know he would not be taking his stipend for serving as trustee this month. He said he is eager to get back, but still unsure the unrest over the project is stemming from people who live in Oakwood Hills.

He said he has not received any personal threats.

“I think part of the problem is the majority of the people who are against are not from our village,” Smith said.

Chris Reining and Ryan Noonan, two leaders of the opposition movement, said it was statements and thoughts similar to Smith’s that are misleading. They both said they have heard Funk say there are people who support the project but have yet to hear from those people.

“Obviously Oakwood Hills is a small community, but for Oakwood Hills officials to say this is only an Oakwood Hills issue is a very shortsighted statement,” Noonan said. “This is going to impact a lot more people. It’s an unfair statement to make.”

Reining has been offered a position on the Oakwood Hills Village Board and said he still was considering it but wanted written confirmation from the village attorney that he would be allowed to vote on the power plant issue. He said there was concern a claim of conflict of interest could be made and he wanted to avoid that.

Reining said he still is waiting on the written confirmation from the village attorney.

Business on the power plant is not expected to take place until October, when developers said they would address the numerous questions raised by residents during July’s public meetings and offer solutions.

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