|7/26/2012 9:12:00 AM|
Lindstrom Council embraces solar power for city hall, public works building and Municipal Liquor Store
by DENISE MARTIN
Lindstrom City Council supported a plan last week to move forward on installing solar moduals for supplying electric power to the municipal liquor store, the city hall, and the public works building/well house. The equipment is actually leased from Newport Partners LLC for the first six years. Newport is working under the Made in Minnesota rebate program, providing solar equipment manufactured in Mountain Iron, MN.
Newport is the owner of Silicon Energy, solar PV manufacturing. This solar lease package is structured for optimum tax and grant benefits that reduce the up front costs for the system, council was advised. Lindstrom basically gets a half-million dollar solar installation for nothing. The city’s payments for solar energy system generated power will be at 80 percent of what the city has contracted from Xcel. Savings could be several thousand dollars total, in the first six years. Assuming the city is at 69.03 kW use and paying at the Xcel Solar Rate --the city can expect to save $1,402 each year. The city was awarded Xcel acknowledgement letters for helping make the project happen, which John Carroll, of Newport Partners, told council is a big deal. The letters are issued sparingly, according to Carroll. After the lease expires the city buys the system for $5,610 or it can opt to get out of solar. The equipment lasts for decades and if Lindstrom remains with the installations the projected city savings over the 40-year lifetime of the system, are $425,000 compared to regular power bills. Council member Joe Wishy, city liaison to the East Central-Lindstrom Library Committee, told Carroll the library is a good candidate for solar due to its location and structural design. Wishy said he would bring the idea to the library committee and try to schedule a presentation by Newport Partners to library officials.
In other business Wishy questioned what he added-up to be about $17,000 in the claims list in excess of what was budgeted for the Hwy. 8 and city streets reconstruction. City Administrator John Olinger explained that crews came upon an “open well” the city wasn’t aware existed and it had to be abated. There were further complications in locating underground mains and many components of infrastructure “weren’t where they were supposed to be.” The incomplete record keeping and inability to locate public works connections created many extra hours and additional equipment, Olinger added, “This is really the first time the city has opened up these systems in decades.” The city also apologizes for inconveniences to residents and businesses when the city was trying to identify water shut-off sites to do work in small areas, and there wasn’t any capability (valves) to do an isolated shut-off. Many of these shortcomings with the antiquated infrastructure are being remedied, he said. The city building inspector has resigned and council was debating whether to fully contract with the county for inspections, zoning and enforcement tasks. On a motion by Wishy council opted to try to hire a parttime person (not to exceed 27 hours) for much of the work previously done by Justin Colberg.
Olinger said there are problem parcels “the city just has to stay on them all the time,” so code enforcement situations don’t get out of hand. Lindstrom has also seen 86 permits pulled so far this year, so there is building activity. The position also aids the planning commission in relating compliance of applications for permits to city ordinances. The Chief of Police updated council on two new squad cars the city has had delivered. They are “Interceptor” models by Ford. They aren’t the most-costly cars available, (Chargers cost more) but officers like certain attributes of the vehicles, said Chief Stenson. Council adopted a revision to personnel policy with Wishy abstaining. He said he’d just gotten the details that night and he wasn’t prepared to vote. The policy now puts the personnel committee in the ladder of submitting personnel complaints-- between staff going to the city administrator and having to go to full council.