As wind energy projects continue to be debated in this corner of the state, we can’t help but take note of what’s happening in O’Neill this year.
O’Neill Public School officials recently provided an update on a $13 million building project that will break ground in July.
The district is using a lease-purchase agreement to finance the project and has hired Davis Design and Hausmann Construction to complete the design and construction.
All kinds of improvements are planned, including construction of a science wing, a Center for Teaching and Learning and special education rooms to replace modular classrooms. New administration offices also are in the plans as well as construction of additional classrooms, gymnasium, locker rooms and band and choir room. That’s a pretty impressive plan.
The connection to wind energy? It comes via the fact that property tax revenue from the large Grande Prairie Wind Farm in Holt County is serving to ease considerably the tax increase needed to complete the project.
There’s a tangible example of how rural areas — which often struggle to create jobs and add to their tax base — can benefit from the growing presence of wind energy in Northeast and North Central Nebraska.
How about something a bit harder to specifically quantify? Currently in this corner of the state, there are either wind farms under construction or soon to begin. As the year progresses, it’s estimated that there will be at least 400-plus construction workers hard at it on those projects — and will be for numerous months.
That translates into additional revenue for restaurants, convenience stories, motels and a variety of retailers. No one may be able to exactly come up with the total of economic benefits, but they’re real — and they’re large.
With wind energy continuing to be a topic of discussion and debate, we see counties in Northeast and North Central Nebraska taking various approaches. Some have put out the “Not welcome” sign, or are considering doing so. Others are more open to the presence of the turbines on the landscape.
It’s for each county and its residents to decide what’s best for them, but we certainly hope the economic aspect of the issue get its full consideration.