Leonard gets new contract with county

By Ralph Echtinaw

Like the Energizer Bunny, St. Louis resident and city councilman Bill Leonard just keeps on going.

At age 77, Leonard just received another one-year contract with the county, where he wears many hats and reports directly to County Administrator Tracey Cordes. 

Leonard has been with county government since 2013 and is based in the Department of Community Development.

“The (Community Development) team works together to decide who does what each day,” Cordes said via email. “If there is a need for a tweak to one of Bill’s programs, I would work with him to accomplish this. If there was a disciplinary issue, I would handle that. This system wouldn’t work everywhere, but it works very well with this crew.”

Cordes told county commissioners at their Nov. 15 meeting that “Bill is (also) our blight eradication officer, our zoning administrator, our soil erosion officer; and he’s fully certified as a building official (and) does building inspections as well.

“For what he does we’re very lucky to have him.”

County Administrator Tracey Cordes

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have not one but two fully-certified building officials in this county. (Building Inspector Tony Miller is the other one.) I should actually whisper that because people will try to poach them.”

Leonard’s new contract gives him a raise from $17/hour to $17.68/hour and takes effect on Oct. 1, retroactively.

Leonard works up to 29 hours a week for the county, Cordes said. “For what he does we’re very lucky to have him.”

Leonard was elected to St. Louis City Council in 2019 and will be up for re-election next year.

Wind farm on track for 2023 erections

Fred Short of Invenergy briefed commissioners on the progress of the Heartland Farms wind project. The company plans to erect wind turbines in Newark and North Star townships next year.

Short said 29 access roads have been started. (The project has 67 roads all together.) Twenty-seven of the 29 access roads are in Newark Township (bound by Grant, Rich, Washington and State roads). North Star Township abuts Newark Township and is bordered by State, Washington, Wisner and Grant roads.

“There are still a few (roads) that are being stoned,” Short said. “So they’re blowing the gravel down but have done all the earth work on the access roads for those locations. 

“They will deliver turbine components to sites over the next few months in anticipation of being able to erect the turbines next spring after the frost laws lift.”

Fred Short

“Everything has been going very well on the construction front. We haven’t had any incidents or accidents. Everyone has been working safely, which has been great. 

“They will deliver turbine components to sites over the next few months in anticipation of being able to erect the turbines next spring after the frost laws lift.

“So we will not have construction activity necessarily throughout the winter. But there will be some trucks coming in on our road-use agreement. The cranes will come next spring once the frost laws lift. That’s when they’re going to start the turbine erection.”

Commissioner George Bailey ask Short if Invenergy has found a cement contractor to pour the wind turbine foundations.

“We are still working to finalize the contract for the cement,” Short said. “When we first started talking to you about this project we were hoping to do the foundations this fall as well. We were unable to do so because over the past few months we were unable to find a contractor here in Gratiot County.”

Invenergy then cast a wider net, seeking contractors outside Gratiot County, looking as far off as Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

“No one was able to supply the cements that we needed to build these foundations,” Short said. “For reference it is up to 100 concrete trucks per base of a turbine. So it is a substantial amount of materials that they need.”

However, Short is optimistic that a contractor will be found by next spring.

“But that’s what changed our sequence of events to doing all of the access roads and deliveries this year, then starting the foundations next year. And we’re still on target to be operational by December of next year.”

Hunting joke

Commission Chairman Chuck Murphy made the following quip about opening day of deer hunting season: “The world’s largest standing army is in the woods today. Of course, they need to be in Alma to take care of our deer, but they can’t.”

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