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Oakwood Hills officials had closed-door power plant discussions in 2013 (with documents)

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 3:23 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 12:04 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot - kgrillot@shawmedia.com )
Don Kroll of Oakwood Hills wears a T-shirt opposing the Oakwood Hills power plant project during an open house on the Oakwood Hills power plant project Aug. 12 in Crystal Lake.

OAKWOOD HILLS – Village officials have been discussing and negotiating a proposed power plant that residents learned about a few months ago since at least July 2013, according to executive session minutes obtained by a resident group’s lawyer.

Steven Cuda, attorney for a group of residents opposed to a proposed Oakwood Hills power plant, also said village officials violated the Open Meetings Act by meeting about the matters behind closed doors.

Cuda filed an Open Meetings Act violation complaint with the McHenry County state’s attorney Thursday morning, hours before residents and village officials were set to interact at a village meeting for the first time since heated public hearings on the project in late July.

In his complaint, Cuda states the Village Board went into executive session at 8:24 p.m. July 11, 2013, to discuss pending litigation but went on to talk about the power plant proposal and the revenue it would bring to the village.

Meeting minutes show that at the time of July 2013, village officials already had rejected an initial offer from Enventure – the power plant developers – and negotiated a higher amount that would help pay for the Rawson Bridge Road project.

Board members further discussed the money it would receive from the natural gas power plant on an annual basis.

The minutes also state there would be no environmental impact because the plant runs on clean energy.

“There is no valid reason this 450-megawatt power plant was hidden for so long from residents of Oakwood Hills and their neighbors,” Cuda wrote in his complaint. “This discussion behind closed doors was a disservice to the residents of Oakwood Hills and a gross violation of the public trust the elected officials of Oakwood Hills vowed to uphold.”

Village officials were not available before or after the meeting, though Village Board President Funk did tell a resident during Thursday’s public forum she was first approached about the project near the end of April 2013.

Ryan Noonan, a leader of the opposition movement, said leaving the power plant issue off the agenda was another way to limit public participation.

“The Oakwood Hills Energy Center is the largest issue that Oakwood Hills has ever faced,” Noonan said. “This meeting demonstrates the board’s ongoing attempts to limit public discourse on this issue as well as a complete disregard for the real concerns of the constituents who elected them.”

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