AMITY, Mo. — Neighbors no longer talk. They won’t even wave when they drive by this town torn apart by technology.
To understand why just ask Sam Perkins to turn on his television. After just a few minutes of watching, you can see the frustration on his face. FOX 4 is the best signal he gets, but even that is unwatchable. The picture either freezes, breaks up or goes to black every few seconds.
“We have no useable channels,” said Perkins who used to receive 32 channels through the antenna on his home in Amity, Mo., a little over an hour north of Kansas City.
What happened to his television reception? Ninety-seven wind turbines. They went online in mid-December and ever since, Perkins can’t watch television.
The turbines were controversial from the get-go. Farmers who allowed them on their land welcomed the extra cash. They are paid about $8,500 a year for each turbine. Some farms have as many as 10. However, others felt the turbines destroyed the beauty and peacefulness of the area.
“We’re tried to stay out of it,” said Perkins’ wife Monica. “It is their property to do whatever they want, but when it starts affecting everyone around them… I don’t think that’s right.”
Ivan Kanak, who lives about five miles away near Maysville, agreed. He also has never liked the turbines, but knew there was little he could do to stop them.
“We are unzoned,” Kanak said. “So it is kind of like the Wild Wild West. You can do anything you have enough guts to do.”
But no one, including Kanak, thought the turbines would cause him to lose his television reception. The only way he can watch TV now is by paying for a satellite dish.
“Why should I spend $100 a month for something I enjoyed for nothing?” he asked.
The company behind this wind farm, NextEra Energy, has promised it will find a solution so that Kanak and Perkins and an estimated 50 other families will have their television reception restored. But it has been three months and still no fix. Frustration keeps mounting.
“Our community was pretty close-knit,” Perkins said. “Now there’s been families torn apart. In our small church, the attendance has been cut in half because of this battle. It’s affected the community far more than television.”
Bad television reception is a common problem for those who live near wind farms. Some companies actually tell communities upfront that they will fix any television reception problems they encounter, including paying for cable or satellite if necessary.
Perkins said NextEra made a similar promise, but again, that was three months ago. That’s why he called FOX 4 Problem Solvers.
Problem Solvers couldn’t find a single government agency that regulated television reception, including the Federal Communications Commission. And that means the good folks in Amity (and all of Dekalb County) are at the mercy of NextEra to solve this problem.
We called NextEra and a spokesman promised us it had a private contractor hard at work trying to solve this problem by boosting the signal. But when we called the contractor he said the only solution he could find would cost in the millions of dollars — something he doubted NextEra wanted to spend.
So we called NextEra again. NextEra said it was still committed to resolving the television reception problems even if it meant buying each homeowner and dish. In fact, it’s already meeting with people trying to hammer out a solution.
Here’s hoping they find one. Because getting television reception restored, could be a step toward restoring relationships in this community.