Friday, January 4, 2008

McHenry County College

The commissioners of McHenry County College want to build a minor league baseball stadium and events center. The major problem with this plan is that the land they want to use is a sensitive watershed. Paving over this watershed would adversely affect the people of Crystal Lake and all the communities down stream.

After the zoning board voted to deny permits for this project, MCC went to the Crystal Lake city counsel. MCC failed to muster the votes necessary to override the zoning board, twice. Somehow, like the mythological hydra, no matter how many times the head is cut off this monster, it seems to rise again. In a final act of petulance, the MCC commissioners disgraced themselves by voting to censure two of its own members that oppose the plan.

MCC’s charter, as I understand it based on my yearly property tax bill, is to provide higher level and continuing education to the people of McHenry County. MCC should confine themselves to this theater of operations.

I understand MCC’s desire to put this otherwise idle land to some productive use. In the spirit of doing more than just complaining, here are some suggestions for use of that land that would be consistent with McHenry County College’s charge to provide education and would not devastate the watershed and the communities that rely on it.

The University of Illinois has an extensive curriculum in agriculture both in terms of crop management and animal husbandry. McHenry County College could partner with the U of I to bring some of these classes to the area. Given that the county’s primary industry is agriculture, who would benefit from such a program?

MCC could use the land to experiment with, study, and teach classes on alternative energy production. Wind, solar, and alternative fuel generation experiments could be studied and developed. Given the rising cost of petroleum, who would benefit from a program like this?

Another suggestion would be to operate both of the above programs together. Demonstrating ways the green energy production can coexist with agriculture would go a long way to advancing alternative energy, making it more attractive for farmers to get double duty out of their land.
Who in this area would benefit from that?

A fourth suggestion would be a different pilot program to produce electricity from bio sources. Dennis Haubenschild's dairy cattle produce 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to run his farm plus 78 average homes. The manure from the cows is used to generate methane which in turn is used to run generators to produce electricity. The entire operation is carbon neutral since the CO2 produced burning the methane is offset by the CO2 consumed producing the cattle feed. The farmer gets a secondary source of income and the cost of producing dairy products is reduced since the farm doesn’t have to pay for its electricity. Who would benefit? I can think of about 300,000 people – the farmers and anyone that consumes dairy products.

These are just four suggestions on how MCC could put that land to use in a way that would be beneficial to all. MCC could take a leadership role in providing superb educational opportunities to McHenry County – opportunities for their students, and for the community at large. Opportunities that could be the starting point for whole new industries and a whole new economy. MCC could set the stage for their students to make that life changing breakthrough that all educators want to see in their pupils. All it takes is a little imagination. Or, they can destroy a watershed and build a ball park.

Which legacy would you want to see on your tombstone?