by Victor Lopez
WINKLER COUNTY--Construction is underway on an almost 100 foot wind turbine right behind the sheriff's office. It's expected to cut the office's utility expenses by 35 percent.
But the project is also benefiting the Kermit economy, since the company providing the turbine and doing the work is local.
"We've been studying the history of wind turbines and as you know, green is the way to go for the future of the country," Winkler County Sheriff, Robert Roberts, said.
If you thought your electric bill was high, try putting yourself in Sheriff Robert's shoes.
According to Roberts, "Our utility budget runs us over $5,000 a month. We're trying, every way we can, to cut that back."
Last year, county commissioners talked about it, put it in the budget and now, they're ready to take the plunge.
"Our law enforcement budget for electricity is approximately $63,000 a year and if the wind turbine were to produce one-third of the energy used to operate the facility, then we would be saving some bucks," County Judge, Bonnie Leck, said.
But the potential savings comes with a $148,000 price tag.
Leck says, the county has already filled out the necessary applications for help, "We were able to get on the list for some stimulus funds, which we are hoping we will receive, which will pay for part of the project. That makes it even more attractive."
The foundation has already been laid. All that's left is to lift the tower in place, connect the power lines and flip the switch. Officials hope to be able to do that by early or middle of next week.
Leck says, if everything works according to plan, you could see more turbines popping up all over, "We could come next door to the EMS station, take on those utilities then move on to the hospital and the parks. Those are the big users, as well as the courthouse."
There's another bonus. The money spent on parts and construction will stay in Kermit. Priority Pump and Supply and Duncan Operating and Electric are working the project.
It's a win-win situation for everyone. The county saves money on electric expense. Residents save money on taxes and the economy gets a nice little boost.
"It helps supplement some power so they can buy their own systems and reap all the harvest instead of being totally respondent to the transmission lines of power," Kary Duncan, owner of Priority Pump and Duncan Operating, said.
"As stewards of the taxpayers money, we need to look at every way we can to save their money and to spend it wisely," Sheriff Roberts said.
But don't expect the new turbines to pop up over night.
"I think we'll probably have to see in one budget cycle what this is going to save us, before we added anymore turbines in the county. We're very hopeful. You have to try," Judge Leck said.