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Village Council resolves residential solar cap issue

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An unlimited number of villagers can now install solar panels on their residences and connect them to the grid after Council passed legislation at its regular meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 3, eliminating a cap on residential solar generation.

That cap, previously set at 1% of local consumption, was reached in July when the local electric utility was inundated with residential solar applications after a new solar purchasing co-op started here.

At the same time, all residential solar producers will be compensated at a lower rate for excess electricity they produce.

Under new interconnection rules, villagers who produce solar energy at their homes will now get nine cents for every kilowatt-hour they produce, down from the previous rate of 11 cents per kWh. That rate will fluctuate on an annual basis and be tied to the average cost the Village pays for electricity.

Council voted 5–0 in favor of the ordinance, which the Village crafted in collaboration with some local solar producers over the last few months. The agreement comes ahead of the expiration of some tax breaks for new solar installations at the end of the year.

Village leaders had said that the goal of the legislation was to accommodate new solar projects here, while making sure solar producers paid their fair share of municipal infrastructure costs.

Council President Brian Housh affirmed that goal at the meeting.

“Every year, we will look at those costs and maintain that equity,” he said.

At the end of August, there were 27 local homes producing solar energy and connected to the grid, according to the Village. Those homes are also subject to the new rules and will not be grandfathered in under their previous interconnection agreements.

In addition, the 57 solar applications the Village received since June can now move ahead. The Village is also accepting new applications for solar projects.

A late change to the ordinance reduced the number of solar households subject to demand charges. Demand charges will now be in effect for those with systems larger than 12 kilowatts, up from 10 kW. According to the Village, there are four solar generators who are now subject to those charges, which means they will pay $10 per kilowatt-hour if they use more than 10kWh.

In other Council business —

Pool rate hike approved

Council unanimously approved an ordinance increasing pool admission rates at the Gaunt Park pool for the 2020 season.

However, increases to the daily admission rate were not as high as initially proposed.

The cost for a day pass to the pool will be $4 for children and seniors and $7 for adults, up from $3.50 and $5, respectively. Children three and under remain free.

Season passes for village residents increased by $3–$5, depending on the pass, while nonresident season passes went up $17 each.

The most significant change affects Miami Township residents, who will no longer qualify for a discounted season pass rate. Instead, they will pay the nonresident rate.

In response to questions from Council about why there aren’t separate daily admission rates for residents, Salmeron said that requiring proof of residence would create an “administrative burden.” He added that sales of day passes are four times higher to nonresidents than residents.

Council decided to increase pool rates due to the ongoing financial deficit at the pool, the only remaining public pool in Greene County.

In 2018, the Village spent $104,774 to maintain and upgrade the pool, while it brought in $68,654, according to figures provided to Council. Over the last nine seasons, the Village spent close to half a million dollars to subsidize the pool.

Police assessment draft discussed

Council members and citizens briefly commented on a draft of the YS police department assessment.

The 46-page draft was recently completed by Massachusetts-based consultants Robert Wasserman and Bob Haas. Council will review the final version before its next meeting on Sept. 16.

The assessment got underway in April and was expected to be completed by mid-June. Council had projected that the report would cost $30,000.

The draft report notes, but does not specify, “tensions” within the local department and offers strategies to improve police transparency and visibility in the community. It also highlights the need for clear policies to guide officer discretion,  encourages better officer training and suggests an improved citizen complaint process, among other changes.

Addressing the report, Council member Lisa Kreeger said one of the challenges with the report is that it took longer than expected.

“Like any assessment, it was a moment in time,” Kreeger said. “One of the challenges is that the world has moved on. There have been a lot of policy and process changes.”

Salmeron, who started on the job after the assessment was underway, reported that 64 YSPD policies have been updated in recent months, with another 41 left to review. He added that mediation efforts to address tensions within the department have also begun. But overall, Salmeron looks forward to implementing the recommendations.

“There are more good and positive things in this report than negative things,” Salmeron said. “This provides a road map for us to work on.”

Other Council members noted there were some errors and omissions in the report, and said they hope for more details on several of its suggestions, as well as models from other communities.

From the floor, Eric Clark thanked Council for funding the report and suggested that, to improve transparency, the police engage more on social media and its website. He also proposed that the chief report to Council on a regular basis.

Laura Curliss added from the floor that she was disappointed that the two years of work of the Justice System Task Force, and its recommendations for local policing, were not included in the report. She also wanted more information on whether the department was “right-sized” and more on “alternative structures” for local police.

The final report, which was released on Tuesday, included 13 recommendations for the department. They were:

1. Create and adopt of a new vision for policing

2. Develop a new policy manual linked to the vision

3. Establish robust performance measures

4. Support and recruit of skilled personnel

5. Develop a strategic vision

6. Create a geographic policing structure (with six neighborhoods)

7. Establish policy in the protection of personal information

8. Address tensions within the department among officers

9. Strengthen youth outreach

10. Create a citizens advisory and complaints committee

11. Create a social media presence that supports transparency

12. Adopt a formal process for restorative justice in addressing some violations

13. Expand the community outreach specialist to full time

Vernay cleanup plan response

Mark Ewalt of the Environmental Commission gave Council an update on the commission’s response to Vernay Laboratories’ final remediation plan, which the company submitted to the U.S. EPA in June.

Since 2002, Vernay has been working under order of the U.S. EPA to develop a plan to clean up contamination at and around the company’s former rubber manufacturing facility at 875 Dayton St.

Ewalt reported that the commission is working with two area remediation experts who have volunteered their time to review the plan. EPA representatives will host a public meeting and meet with Village officials next month.

Next meeting

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.



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