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June 1 deadline for wind, bike project

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June 1 is a deadline for two upcoming Village Council decisions, so at Council’s May 7 meeting, Council members continued discussion on both issues, one a project aimed to make the village more attractive to cyclists, and the other adding more renewable energy to the Village energy portfolio.

At their next meeting on May 21, Council members will vote on each issue, deciding whether to move ahead with the Northern Gateway project that would create a connector spur between the bike path and a new parking area on Cemetery Street; and whether to add an AMP wind project to the Village energy portfolio.

The Northern Gateway project already has significant federal funding but would require a local match of about $100,000 to move ahead, with an Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT, deadline of June 1. And if the Village doesn’t move ahead soon, it will lose hundreds of thousands in funding.

“This money will go away” if not used, according to Interim Village Manager Laura Curliss.

The Northern Gateway project, which began in 2003 and has been on hold several years, includes the construction of a bike path connector between a new parking lot on Village-owned property near the corner of Cemetery Street and the Little Miami Scenic Trail near the train depot. The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has already approved funding of up to $275,000, or 70 percent of construction costs, of Federal Highway Administration funds on the project, which is estimated to cost $362,634 overall, leaving the Village to pay a maximum of about $107,000.

“For the amount the Village is investing, we’re getting a lot,” Curliss said, referring to the trail connector, additional parking and a project that offers a renewed commitment to Council’s stated goal of making the village more walker- and biker-friendly.

At the May 7 meeting Council President Judith Hempfling said she wants to look at this year’s Village budget before deciding on the project.

The project would begin construction in 2012 and be completed by the end of 2013, according to Curliss.

The Northern Gateway was originally a spin-off of the train station project, according to local architect Ted Donnell in a presentation to Council, The original project was more ambitious and included a bridge over the stream next to the Bryan Center. However, that version was deemed too expensive, leading to the concept being put on hold. A scaled-down version of the original project dispenses with the bridge and shows the culvert beside U.S. 68 as accommodating the trail, according to a memo by Curliss. The project also includes a small scenic overlook of the stream area, along with drainage and retaining wall improvement, along with new asphalt and gravel parking areas on Cemetery Street. The project would enhance the Village’s affordable housing project on Cemetery Street by improving walkability, according to Curliss, who has met recently with representatives of the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT, who are supportive of the project.

Wind for us?

Regarding the wind issue, Council members heard from local energy expert Bob Brecha who encouraged them to develop clear energy-related goals for the village, in order to help Council make future decisions regarding energy sources. While Council has stated its preference for renewable sources, it’s not clear if the overall goal is energy conservation or to become more carbon neutral, he said, nor has there been careful analysis of energy needs.

“For me, the question is, where do we want to go?” Brecha said.

Brecha was referring to the Blue Creek Wind Energy project that AMP is recommending the Village add to its portfolio. The 10-year contract with AMP would commit the Village to purchase wind energy to fill 1 percent of its annual energy needs, produced by a wind farm in northern Ohio. However, the Village’s two energy consultants had previously recommended that Yellow Springs pass on the project, as the Village already has a very high percentage of renewable sources in its energy portfolio, and the consultants felt the Village should leave a small amount of its portfolio uncommitted due to potential variables in energy use.

AMP has said that June 1 is the deadline for the wind project decision.

Regarding the Blue Creek project, Brecha said his preference would be to purchase energy from wind sources close to the village, so that villagers understand the human costs of wind energy production.

“Like building a coal plant far away, we shouldn’t be building a wind farm far away,” he said.

However, if the Village sees its goal as becoming as carbon neutral as possible, it may want to increase its consumption of green energy and the Blue Creek project offers a way to do so.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here to become what we want to become,” Brecha said.

In a presentation to Council, Jerry Papania of the Village Energy Board said that while that board has not yet made a recommendation on the Blue Creek project, it will do so soon. Papania also said he questioned some of the energy consultants’ assumptions in their recommendation against the projects.

In other Council May 7 business:

• Council unanimously approved a motion that supports the Village entering into a multi-year survey of local children’s dental hygiene, in conjunction with the Greene County Health Department. The survey, proposed by Lori Askeland and Rick Walkey, seeks to follow children’s dental health following Council’s decision last year to discontinue adding fluoride to drinking water.
• Council unanimously approved the final reading for the first supplemental appropriation for 2012.
• Council unanimously approved a resolution that allows Interim Manager Curliss to enter into a contract for the first segment of a Village-wide program of sidewalk repairs. That segment addresses sidewalk repairs on the east side of Xenia Avenue between the bikepath and Friends Care Community.
• The arts policy forum is tentatively scheduled for Council’s next meeting on May 21.
• Council met in executive session for purposes of evaluation of a Village employee.


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