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Jakobsson Sworn Into Urbana City Council

Eric Jakobsson was sworn in Monday night as alderman of Urbana's second ward.

Jakobsson, who is married to State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana), replaces former council member David Gehrig. Gehrig resigned from the seat in November citing the work overload. Mayor Laurel Prussing said she appointed Jakobsson, a former University of Illinois biology professor, because of his honesty and ability to make sound decisions.

"Well, I've known him for many years," Prussing said. "I think he's an individual with very high integrity, and what I was looking for with a council member is someone who would have very balanced approach to things, not jump to conclusions, but be willing to listen to people and ask good questions."

Jakobsson said he is ready to get to work on issues like historic preservation and the prospects of setting up a wind farm located outside the city on the University of Illinois campus in South Farms.

"One of the things that I welcome about it is the opportunity to be more fully engaged with the community," Jakobsson said.

At his first council meeting as an elected official Monday night, Jakobsson heard a spirited debate about the proposal for setting up the wind farm. While the project would not be based within Urbana, it would be close enough where city officials can enforce a zoning ordinance. The project has an estimated budget of about $4.5 million dollars, but supporters of the plan raised doubts over whether it would be economically feasible to construct three wind turbines as originally proposed.

Groups touting the plan, including the U of I's Students for Environmental Concerns, shared their voice of support for the project's environmental benefits while property owners raised concerns about the proximity of the wind turbines to their land.

A $2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation would help set up the wind turbines, but that grant is slated to expire in May, leaving less time to make last minute changes to the project. Jakobsson said the city wants to see this project become a reality, but he said officials need to explore its impact on the entire community, including residential areas where noise pollution could become a big problem as a result of the wind turbines.

"When the city is given responsibility over an area, the city can't neglect that and the city won't, I'm sure," he said.

Jakobsson plans to stay on the council on a more permanent basis, which is why he is running in next year's city council race against Brian Dolinar of the Independent Media Center. Since both candidates are Democrats, a Feb. 22 primary will determine whose name appears on the ballot.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics