Village Council

Village should take lead in energy issues, group says

 

The second phase report from the Electric System Task Force to Village Council recommends that the Village begin a longterm project to minimize its reliance on coal, provide as much electricity from alternative energy sources as possible, reduce per meter consumption by 50 percent by 2025 and create 100 new conservation and/or renewable energy-related jobs in the village.

The report was delivered at Council’s Dec. 15 meeting by task force chair Benji Maruyama.

“This is the beginning of a road map the Village could use to go forward on energy issues,” Maruyama said.

The task force, which has been meeting for a year and a half, had two charges. The first was to determine if the Village needed to build a new $3.5 million substation, as recommended by previous Village Manager Eric Swansen. In the group’s first phase report, delivered last spring, it stated that a new substation was not needed and that smaller and less costly measures could ensure adequate delivery of electrical services.

The group’s second charge was to “develop a comprehensive policy that addresses global warming and seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of our community.”

Toward that goal, the task force recommended that the Village government take the lead in modeling energy conservation practices, and allocate $50,000 per year for three years from the general fund to initiate conservation measures in Village-owned facilities, such as the library, Bryan Center, and the water and sewage treatment plants.

It also recommended that the Village fund a study to identify an energy plan to meet the goals of reducing consumption, reducing dependence on coal and generating more electricity from alternative sources, and creating new jobs. According to the task force, the study could be funded by increasing electric utility rates for a minimum of five years to raise $125,000 annually. The rate increase would be about $7 per customer, but less to those who conserve their electrical use, Maruyama said.

The group also recommended that the Village implement a plan to “incentivize the creation of 100 new jobs through a conservation, efficiency and intermediate technology energy-themed economic development program.”

To help accomplish these goals, the group recommended that the Village establish a new task force to assist Village staff and Council.

Council accepted the task force’s report with appreciation for its members’ hard work. Task force members, in addition to Maruyama, are Reggie Stratton, Pat Murphy, Roy Eastman, Carol Gasho, Bob Brecha, Richard Zopf and, formerly, Paul Abendroth. Council members Judith Hempfling and Karen Wintrow also met with the group.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, Council members considered whether to move ahead immediately with the recommendations, or to wait until Council finalizes its 2009 budget, a process which will begin in January. Council members Wintrow and Kathryn Van der Heiden said that Council should put the recommendations on hold until they receive more information about the Village’s financial situation.

However, other Council members and task force members urged Council to keep moving ahead.

Pat Murphy, executive director of The Community Solution, said he recently spoke with the staff of Governor Ted Strickland, and learned there will shortly be state grants available to fund energy conservation initiatives. If the Village waits for what could be several months before the budget is finalized, it could miss out on funding opportunities, he said.

“It’s important to keep the momentum going,” Murphy said, adding that the task force is the only group that has come forward to say it could help create new jobs in the village.

Council members agreed that Hempfling and Wintrow will, with Village Manager Mark Cundiff, go ahead and meet with task force leaders to clarify the charge of the new task force, and to investigate funding opportunities. However, all agreed that they will not commit Village money to the effort until the budget talks are finalized.

In other Village business:

• Council unanimously approved a resolution to enter into a contract with economic development consultant Michael Shuman of The Training and Development Corporation for a workshop to take place in Yellow Springs Jan. 16–18.

During discussions at several previous meetings, Council had been divided on whether to invite Shuman, a nationally known expert on “re-localization,” to Yellow Springs. Karen Wintrow and Kathryn Van der Heiden expressed concern that the event should produce specific actions to address the economic situation in Yellow Springs, and that those who are directly involved in economic development efforts, including members of the Chamber of Commerce and Community Resources, should attend. Other Council members agreed that a cross section of the community should be involved and also that they would like the workshop to produce specific actions. However, they also felt the educational benefit would be significant in itself.

At the Dec. 15 meeting, Council members were united in their support for the Shuman workshop, which is being organized by the Smart Growth Task Force.

“As our national economy is tanking, we need to take care of each other,” Wintrow said. “A lot of opportunities can come from this workshop.”

Council agreed to fund the workshop up to $7,000. That amount includes a “leakage analysis,” an analysis by Shuman of ways the village could better keep local resources in the community. The event begins with a public forum on Friday, Jan. 16, followed by a day and a half long workshop Saturday and Sunday. Any interested persons may attend the event, for which a $25 donation is being requested. The contract specifies that the Village takes responsibility for ensuring that the workshop attendees include a “good cross-section of key decision-makers” including policy makers, civil servants, economic developers, planners, small business people and activists.

• Lori Askeland gave a short report on the previous week’s joint meeting between Council and Planning Commission, during which Glenn Harper of the Ohio Society of Historic Preservation presented information on municipal historic districts.

Zoning for historic preservation may be a good fit with Yellow Springs because steps taken to preserve old buildings conserve energy, while tearing buildings down increases a community’s carbon footprint, according to Askeland.

“Anything you can do to preserve a building is the greenest approach,” she said.

However, Van der Heiden questioned whether the Village has the funds or the manpower to take on a new effort that could require a significant amount of both. And Wintrow stated that so far she has heard interest in implementing historic preservation zoning regulations from only a small group of villagers, those associated with Antioch College.

Council members agreed to postpone a more specific discussion on historic preservation until a later date.

• Cundiff gave an update on recent efforts to hire a contractor for completing the infrastructure to the Center for Business and Education. A committee composed of Ellen Hoover, Carol Gasho, Ed Amrhein and himself narrowed down a list of 17 applicants and chose Jacobs Engineering of Cincinnati to do the work, Cundiff said. Negotiations will take place as soon as he meets with Ohio Department of Transportation officials to clarify the scope of the project, Cundiff said.

• Council unanimously approved resolutions approving Village health and dental insurance coverage.

• Council unanimously approved the appointment of Vickie Hennessy to the Environmental Commission.

• Council unanimously approved an ordinance for supplemental appropriations to the Village budget as an emergency. According to Cundiff, it is customary at the end of the year to make emergency appropriations in order to balance the budget.

• Council’s next meeting will take place Monday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. in Council chambers at the Bryan Community Center.

 

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