Elk Konnected Accredited Community

Community Contact

Dr. David Whetstone (316) 708-0296

Vision Statement

Strong families. Solid education. Superior Lifestyle. “Stay with us as we grow!”

Success Stories

By Rudy Taylor

PRAIRIE STAR…..Twenty-five circles of chairs, all occupied by excited Elk County residents, filled the Moline School gymnasium Tuesday night. The county residents stood in line to get into the meeting because they knew the topic of discussion would have multi-million dollar ramifications.

The meeting was held because Elk County’s three commissioners in December 2008 negotiated an agreement with Trade Wind Energy Corp. to receive approximately $1 million per year over the next 20 years as payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

A huge 150-200 mega-watt wind generation farm will be constructed, starting later this year, approximately 10 miles west of Howard. Trade Wind Energy has said more than $450 million will be invested in the wind-generation facility and the first payment to the county could come as early as December 2011 or the same month in 2012.

The PILOT payments will be calculated according to $4,500 multiplied by gross megawatt output of the wind farm (150 to 200 megawatts) with a two percent annual increase.

Commissioners Liz Hendricks, Ken Liebau and Doug Ritz then called for public input to determine how those PILOT funds would be spent. That’s why the Elk Konnected organization called Tuesday’s meeting — to allow local people to express their own priorities.

They talked within their circles about roads, schools, community centers, youth facilities, incentives for job-producing industries and a big list of other ideas.

Leading the meeting was consultant Terry Woodbury of Public Square Communities. With him were associates Angie Baur and Lance Woodbury.

At the end of the evening, each circle was asked for a spokesperson to serve on an action team to compile the data gathered at the community conversation and report to the Elk County Commissioners by their April 11 meeting, if possible.

While no specific recommendations were determined, Woodbury was able to make several conclusions from the groups which were composed of eight to ten in each circle. The top two suggestions that came forward from a large percentage of those attending were property tax relief and repair/improvements of local roads.

Other ideas submitted by those in attendance included the following:

  • More affordable drinking water for all residents
  • Putting the first $1 million in the bank then starting to spend in the second year
  • School improvements
  • Fund higher education for local students who will contract to return to Elk County some day
  • Create more jobs
  • Assisted living for all towns in the county
  • Airport improvements
  • Courthouse improvements
  • Golf course
  • Retire all public debt
  • Safe shelters
  • Scholarships
  • Tourism
  • Local YMCA, YWCA

At the beginning of the meeting, local civic leader Richard Fish said Elk Konnected was organized to pull citizens together to discuss the future of the communities comprising Elk County.

On behalf of Elk Konnected, David Whetstone said, “We feel like we’ve been afforded an incredible opportunity in this county. The amount of money being offered to us from a wind farm is unprecedented.”

Woodbury works with 16 communities in area states, including 37 towns.

“Our dream is to turn rural America around, and make it work again,” said Woodbury.
“Every time I come here, I find encouragement,” Woodbury said. “Elk County has a great opportunity — one million dollars per year for twenty years!”

“We have a possibility to take twenty years and do it right, so let’s listen to each other, and take the opportunity to do something great.”

Baur noted in her comments that positive conversation and big ideas will always move you forward — and that’s what Elk Konnected is all about.

When Elk Konnected was first organized, it took a survey which showed local residents believed their top three strengths were: Strong families, solid educational system, and superior lifestyle in local communities.

Community conversations have been held in Longton, Severy (included in Elk Konnected even though in Greenwood County), Howard and Moline.

The Caney River Project is managed by Trade Wind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., and the project owner is Enel North America, Inc.

More than 15 landowners will share in royalties at the wind farm in Elk County, and they already have begun receiving their checks.

Power produced at the Caney River Project is being sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public power company. The power will be delivered to TVA’s customers in the southeast United States.

The Caney River project is believed to be one of the most energetic sites of any wind project in the development in eastern Kansas, outside of the designated Heart of the Flint Hills area.

The project will interconnect to the Westar 345 kV transmission line in Elk County.
When completed, the wind farm in Elk County will generate enough power to supply the needs of approximately 60,000 households.

Prairie Star will cooperate with Elk Konnected and the Elk County Commission to print questions and answers about the wind project and PILOT money in future editions.