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School Board Delays Wind Turbine Decision



Installing an electricity generating wind turbine near the Archbold High School football stadium has hit another snag.

Speaking to members of the district school board during its Monday, Sept. 13 meeting, David Deskins, district superintendent, said the delay was caused by a “Buy American” clause.

The school district is in line for $1,075,000 in state and federal grant money to build the wind turbine on school property at the southwest corner of the stadium. The largest portion of the grant money, $750,000, comes from a federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or ARRA grant.

The school district was in line to sell $625,000 in Qualified School Construction Loan bonds. In order to meet deadlines, the district needed to make the final decision to commit to the wind turbine project by the middle of this month.

But Deskins told board members within the last two weeks, he was told there is a “Buy American” clause in the ARRA grant regulations. It requires the school to purchase its wind turbine from an American manufacturer.

At first, Deskins said the school could not locate a U.S.-based company that manufactured a turbine in the 600- to 700-kilowatt size.

Then Ohio Department of Development personnel steered school officials to an American manufacturer of a turbine of the correct size, but since there was only one manufacturer, the school district couldn’t negotiate the price.

Price Hike

“We were told the price could go up another $100,000 to $200,000,” Deskins said.

“We communicated to them (ODOD) that would pretty much stop the project,” he said.

The $100,000 to $200,000 price jump, pushing the final project cost to $1.8 to $1.9 million, was an insurmountable obstacle, Deskins said.

Then, he said, ODOD offi cials said they might consider adding an additional $100,000 to $200,000 in state funds to the list of grant funding.

Council

With the delay caused by the “Buy American” clause, Deskins said a new target date for a final wind turbine decision will be after Archbold Village Council considers a zoning special use permit.

The school property is zoned S-1, special use. A wind turbine is allowed as a conditional use in an S-1 area.

Archbold Planning Commission met Aug. 23 and recommended council accept a special use permit for the turbine.

Council is set to consider the permit recommendations at a hearing set for 7 pm, Monday, Oct. 4.

Deskins said the school board will probably hold a special meeting soon after that date to approve the turbine project.

He told board members he would like to begin the bidding process in early October.

In response to questions from board members, he said he was confident council will approve the conditional use permit, but said, “Nothing is certain until it’s certain.”

Financing

Patrick King, of the Stifel-Nicolaus company, a financial consulting firm in Columbus, said in a presentation to the board he had been working with Farmers & Merchants State Bank on an agreement to fund the construction of the wind turbine.

Because the grant funds won’t be paid to the school district until the turbine is completed, the school district needs bridge funding to actually build the turbine.

Currently under discussion is a plan in which the bank loans the school district the total cost of constructing it, minus $625,000.

The interest rate for one year would be 1.9%. If the construction goes beyond one year, the bank would agree to continue the loan at 3%, which King said “is still an attractive rate.”

The $625,000 portion would come from the school construction bonds. The bonds would be sold, and interest will be paid on the bonds. The interest payments will be paid by the federal government.

The money to repay the bonds would come from the amount of energy saved by the wind turbine.

“This is a very exciting project. Not a lot of schools are doing this,” he said.

Deskins said once installed, a wind turbine could save the district anywhere from $1.2 to $2.5 million in electricity bills over the life of the turbine.–David Pugh



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