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Council agrees to smart plant

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At its meeting Monday, July 19, Village Council approved the first reading of an ordinance committing to a “Smart Power Plant” program of American Municipal Power. The program allows the Village’s residential and commercial power consumers to take advantage of consulting services on how to reduce energy consumption. The Smart Power Plant is administered through a small fee added to the electric fees of both residential and commercial users.

While the Village did have a choice to participate in the program, the Village would have been assessed a fee for the program whether or not they took advantage of the consulting services. According to Eric Lloyd, director of marketing at AMP, the municipally-owned power consortium was mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency this year to implement the program in lieu of fines leveled against AMP for failing to upgrade its Gorsuch coal-fire plant and reduce emissions. Because Yellow Springs, as a member of AMP, subscribed to Gorsuch at the time of its emissions violations, the Village is responsible for its share of the fines, which have been commuted to Power Plant program fees.

While AMP was required to spend a total of $15 million on the mitigation project (plus pay an $850,000 civil penalty) to achieve a cumulative energy savings of 70,000 megawatt hours, the Village’s share will cost an additional $1.50 per MWh used. If the average residential consumer uses about 500 kilowatts of electricity per month, the fee increase would be about 96 cents extra each month, Council member Lori Askeland said.

If the Village chooses not to participate in the program, however, the Village will still be assessed $60,500 per year for three years for it’s share of the mitigation fee. Council has until September to make a final decision on whether to participate in the Smart Power Plant.

“We’re going to pay the money and get something, or we’re going to pay the money and get nothing; so it kind of seems like a no-brainer,” Askeland said during the meeting.

To launch the program at the $1.50/MWh rate, AMP needs 75 percent of Gorsuch subscribers and 25 percent of non-Gorsuch subscribers to participate. If AMP does not get that critical mass to participate, “Yellow Springs will be responsible for a larger portion” of the mitigation fee than the $1.50 rate will generate, Lloyd said. So far, the program has gotten interest from many non-Gorsuch municipalities, such as the state’s wind power capital of Bowling Green, who want to reduce their energy consumption.

AMP took on partial ownership of the Gorsuch power plant in 1988, and its members, such as Yellow Springs, “gained the benefit of cheap power,” Lloyd said. In 1999, AMP took on full ownership of the plant, which currently supplies about 42 percent of the village’s power. Due to the age and the cost of upgrading it, the plant is scheduled to be shut down in 2012. If, however, the Smart Power Plant program is launched, AMP will shut down the Gorsuch plant this year and purchase that power instead on the open market, Lloyd said.

“We could actually purchase power cheaper than what we would have paid to upgrade and keep running the [Gorsuch] plant,” he said.

AMP has contracted with Vermont Energy Investment Corporation to provide the Smart Power Plant consulting services for AMP members. VEIC has reduced the energy consumption of the state of Vermont by half a million megawatt hours over the past 10 years, Lloyd said. The Smart Power Plant program will consult with the Village to determine priority and target customers. The service will also provide commercial and industrial businesses customized consulting services on how to reduce energy usage within the facilities as well as throughout the production process, Lloyd said. For residents, the program will offer educational material and highlight financial incentives for efficient lighting and appliances.

In other Council business:

• Village resident Al Schlueter requested that Council submit a letter to Vernay Laboratories asking that the company postpone the controlled burn of Rabbit Run farmhouse until the Ohio EPA rules on the final remediation requirements for the toxic spill on its Dayton Street property. Schlueter lived at Rabbit Run in the 1970s, raising vegetables and chickens and tending the orchard, he said. The seven-acre farm currently owned by Vernay is one of the village’s last working farms, and it “highlights the fact that we’re a farm community,” Schlueter said. While Vernay has been “a good neighbor and a responsible business in town,” Schlueter said he hated to see the historic farmhouse come down.

Council members discussed the possibility of communicating with Vernay, but Council member Karen Wintrow urged the group to respect the company’s decision as a private property owner.

• Council passed the second ordinance to establish an Energy Board to replace the Energy Task Force, to allow the focus of that group to be continuous and ongoing. The board will consist of nine people, each serving three-year terms, including one representative from Village Council. Current Energy Board members include Pat Murphy, Jerry Papania, Reggie Stratton, Brian Strawn, Larry Gerthoffer and Terry Graham, with Council President Judith Hempfling serving as Council representative.

• Hempfling nominated Eric Johnson to serve on the Energy Task Force.

• Council approved the Village 2011 tax budget required by the Ohio Revised Code for the county auditor for the purpose of adjusting tax levies and fixing the limitations of appropriations and expenditures. According to budget predictions, the total revenues for 2009 were $3,055,178, while the current year is expected to total $2,877,112, and for 2011 $2,959,113.

• Village Manager Mark Cundiff reported that the Village street crew began excavating the Corry Street sewer line, which overflowed during a recent heavy rain event. Because the pipe may have collapsed, the Village is attempting to install a new one this week.

• The Village water plant is the recipient of a Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as a certificate of appreciation for 50+ years of water fluoridation from the Ohio Department of Health, on behalf of the CDC, the American Dental Association and the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.

• AMP sent the Village an engraved prism in honor of its participation in the Meldahl Hydroelectric power project, which broke ground on June 29.

• Council approved a $100 training session for Village Treasurer Rachel McKinley, who hoped to gain the ability to diversify Village investments.

• Council noted that villager Pat Brown had generously donated a laptop to the Village clerk to take down the minutes during Council meetings.

• Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 3.

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