Sunday, August 15, 2010

VC: Demolition permits; Solar Power & Efficiency Smart; Skate Park Improvements; School Board mtg.; MVRPC Sustainable Communities

Dear People! The agenda for this week looks fairly light. Monday, 8/16, 7 pm, Bryan Center.


Ordinance: 2nd Reading:
Approving Efficiency Smart Power Plant with AMP. I discussed this a couple of meetings back; it seems like a good deal for us.
Ordinance: 2nd Reading: Supplemental Appropriations. This, too, I have discussed two meetings back, and was covered in the YS News recently
Ordinance: First reading: Demolition permit.
Currently the village has no way to ensure that all the utilities are turned off on a property that is scheduled to be torn down. This permit process allows us to do so, and to ensure that the property is returned to acceptable conditions after demolition, and penalties for non-compliance.
Resolution: Property Insurance: This is our annual renewal with the public entity pool of Ohio (PEP). They propose a descrease from last year's rates by $2,371.93.
Resolution: Endorsing the Multi-County Advantage Sharing Program using state and federal funds, the ASP provides additional dollars to economic and workforce development projects that meet the needs of businesses that are locating, expanding or sustaining operations.


Solar Power Project Subscription with AMP Representative: AMP entered into a purchase poser agreement with Standard Energy for the purchase of up to 300 MW of solar energy. This is a 30 year agreement; the cost will be $85 /MWh; ($0.085/ KWh). It will increase 2% per year beginning in 2012. AMP suggests we buy 810 KWh. Manager Cundiff suggests this will diversify our power portfolio and poses no financial risk if the power output is less than the planned 300 MWh. While not dependable for base power needs, solar is an excelent peak power provider, esp. in summer.

Treasurer's Report Rachel McKinney, our new treasurer, will give a report on our investments.


Village Station Lease Update Since our lease with the Chamber had expired, we are taking the opportunity of renewing the lease and also re-writing it; the old lease was very short (1 page long) and informally written and our insurance provider strongly suggested we needed a more standard commercial lease. So our solicitor has provided a new lease for our consideration.
Skate Park Improvements We have budgeted $10,000 in this year's budget for the skate park, so John Booth, John Grote, Matt Housh and Mark did a visual inspection of the park, and they found things in ok shape, for now. Skaters in the park said they would like a concrete dish. They also met with Sam Young, an owner of Millworks about graffiti problems. And finally, Booth, Grote and Cundiff visted regional parks to compare and contrast. The main thing they learned is that input from skaters before making improvements/changes. There was a meeting with skaters scheduled for this past Fri, the 13th.
School Board Joint Meeting Agenda We're holding a joint meeting with the School Board on August 26th. Tentatively, we are scheduled to discuss:
  • Goals of Village Council / Visioning;
  • Class of 2020 Initiative Presentation by School Board;
  • Current shared activities: HRC "courageous conversations", Safe Routes to School, Economic Sustainability Commission; Energy Task Force; STEM grant.
  • Discussion of attracting young families to YS and Jobs
  • Conclusion: how to leverage current and future activities
MVRPC Sustainable Communities Application: MVRPC is impressed with our thinking about planned development with our urban service boundary map, and our thinking about sustainability. They are hoping to apply for a federal grant for sustainable communities, and Karen Wintrow, our rep, is hoping we will support this effort (not financially but with meeting space and limited staff involvement).

I believe we will meet with our solicitor in executive session about ongoing litigation and possibly real estate matters, but I could be mistaken as it's not specified on our current agenda.

POEM: I heard this poem on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac the other day, and it kind of haunts me:

Throwing Away the Alarm Clock

by Charles Bukowski

my father always said, "early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy
and wise."

it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
and we were up at dawn to the smell of
coffee, frying bacon and scrambled

my father followed this general routine
for a lifetime and died young, broke,
and, I think, not too

taking note, I rejected his advice and it
became, for me, late to bed and late
to rise.

now, I'm not saying that I've conquered
the world but I've avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful

one of whom
myself—someone my father

"Throwing Away the Alarm Clock" by Charles Bukowski, from The Flash of Lighting Behind the Mountain. © Harper Collins, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More vindication on coal

Dear People: A quick note to everyone regarding two of the most difficult but perhaps most important decisions we have made since I have been on Council: we rejected the proposed coal plant in Meigs County, Ohio, and we also rejected the "Prairie State" plant in Illinois, early in 2008--which would have meant signing a 50-year contract for the plants.

You are likely aware that AMP's Meigs plant was canceled last fall because construction costs were ballooning; the communities who signed on, however, are left paying very expensive bills for the significant development costs that have already been incurred, for a plant that will never exist. Yellow Springs has been spared those costs.

While the Prairie State plant has not been canceled as of this time, the Chicago Tribune is now reporting that the construction costs of the Prairie State plant are going to be so high that the costs of the power from that plant will likely be higher than the costs of power on the open market. They also note that "Though the company and its partners promote the plant as a national model for environmentally-friendly 'clean coal' technology, Prairie State will be the largest source of carbon dioxide built in the United Sates in a quarter century."

The Council at Martinsville, Ohio, is now consulting with Ohio Citizens Action Network and professional environmental consultants from New York on the decision they made to buy into the Prairie State plant, and I myself have been in conversation with a council person from another AMP municipality who was concerned about the ramifications of their decision to invest in coal.

Yellow Springs Council consulted with OCAN and local and regional environmental experts, and our own consciences, before making our decision, which was a difficult one, and I believe that helped us to make what has turned out to be a prudent decision.

Frankly, I do not believe that AMP deliberately misled us about the decision, as the second article seems to imply, but I do think that politically "conservative" positions, often advocated by corporate interests and smart people with great technical skills, are, actually, routinely more costly and less practical, and not actually "conservative" in the truest sense of that term, especially in the long run, than "liberal" ones. That definitely seems to be true in this case.


Monday, August 2, 2010

VC tonight (8/2): Budgets and Sidewalks

< -- YS sidewalk art, courtesy of Yellow Springs Arts blog

Dear People: The summer is winding down and I'm staring down the barrel of a new school year. I'll include a favorite poem about teaching poetry, at the end of the email, for those of you who read to the end. Village Council meets tonight (Mon, 8/2, 7pm, second floor Bryan Ctr.) Lots of hot button issues! Budgets and sidewalks; truly, it doesn't get any better than in village governance.

Petitions and Communications:
  • Community Resources will be having a meeting open to the public on August 11 on the progress being made at the CBE (the Antioch Midwest property). Lisa Abels will present a state-of-the-project report and there will be time for Q&A.
  • Detailed and helpful rejection letter from the Dept of Energy for the grant applied for (with village approval) by Community Service, Inc. The letter notes many strengths of the project but also specifies exactly what weaknesses the reviewers detected in the impact and methods of the project. This was the grant application that led to the emergency meetings (and clarificaiton of our sunshine law policies) of last December.
  • A citizen with a goal of enhancing our 'bike-friendliness' copied us in a note to Ed Amrhein regarding the MVRPC's (the regional planning board of the Miami Valley) "Complete Streets" draft policies. He is concerned that it does not follow evidence-based best safety practices that have been established for incorporating bike traffic in city streets.
  • A citizen and business owner writing with concern about cutting the public safety budget.
  • Email from Fire chief Colin Altman: additional asbestos tests found no asbestos on Rabbit Run farm: MTFR will burn the house and barn on August 7th.
  • New bus route through YS on TUESDAYS, starting tomorrow! Greene CATS route 49 will go from Xenia to Springfield and will stop in YS at both Friends Care and the John Bryan Ctr. It will come through in the morning and the afternoon. There should be more information at the Chamber and Village Offices now.
  • Sample "Biobased Product" resolution language was sent to us from Ohio state senator Karen Gillmor (R-Tiffin), who authored Senate Bill 131, which "requires the state of ohio to give purchasing preference to biobased products when they are readily available at a reasonable price." Gillmor urges us to pass a similar municipal resolution as a boost to local, Ohio-based industries. Here's a press release about the state bill--if any environmentally minded folks have thoughts, let me know!

ORDINANCE (2nd reading/Public Hearing):
AMP's Efficiency Smart Program, discussed in my last note. A way to pay our EPA fine for the old AMP Gorsuch plant that is being shut down, and, we hope, get some help improving our efficiency, including possibly coupons for discounts on energy smart appliances.
ORDINANCE (1st reading): Supplemental Appropriations. This is a fairly minor adjustment--expenses are slightly up from expected in our General Fund (by $15,635 in a more than $3.6million budget) and special revenue funds (Bryan Center especially, total up by $47,201 in our $1.5 million budget). The wastewater treatment plant upgrade costs, however, are running lower at this point than expected, DOWN by $1.24million dollars, which puts the overall budget DOWN by $1.15 million from the projected budget. See the State of the Budget discussion below for more info.
RESOLUTION of NECESSITY: SIDEWALKS: Notice being given to property owners along the east side of Xenia Ave. (from Corry to Herman) to repair the sidewalks on their property within 90 days, or the village will repair and bill the owners. (The sidewalks had been marked with paint earlier this summer and some property owners have already acted). The list of affected properties will also be posted with the Village Clerk and published in the local paper.
RESOLUTION: Extension of Agreement with Little Miami River Partnership: The cleaned "effluent" of our sewer system runs into the Little Miami River; as such, we have an agreement with the Little Miami River Partnership that basically gets grants to help preserve the river, such as the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). To use the funds remaining in their accounts, the LMRP needs us to renew our agreement with them. This extension will have no financial cost to the village.

  • Tax Budget Discussion/ State of the Budget Presentation: Sharon Potter will report that we are seeing slight decreases of about 10% in our total income (real estate taxes are down by about 2%, Income Taxes are down by 5%, and shared revenues are down). Potter says we are looking at a reduction in our General Fund cash balance, which has been consistently growing for the past 4 years, from about $1.8 million last year to $1.13 million projected for this year. We do not believe this is a reason to panic, but that we are probably going to have to adjust our capital projects goals for the next several years.
  • Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund: We'll receive a report on our EDRLF, which currently has $377,327 in loans distributed to various entities (including interest owed), but most of which is comprised by an open-ended, 0% interest, $300,000 loan to Community Resources for the Center for Business and Education (CBE, the Antioch Midwest site). Most of the other businesses have small, relatively low interest loans (the biggest amount of prinicipal owed is about $20K), on which they are making regular payments. According to the worksheet, we have $28,022.08 available in this fund, but I'd like clarification on some of the numbers.
  • Sidewalk Policy Discussion: In some ways, this is very old business, but it's new to this current Council. We are looking to see if there is any way that sidewalk costs could be partially or wholly paid by the village--either through "caps" on costs or simply changing the ordinance so that sidewalks become publicly funded just like streets. Right now, we do not charge corner-lot residents with sidewalks on two sides for both sidewalks, by resolution. We also pay for the curb-cuts on corners. However, there are real complexities to making a change. I would appreciate citizens' input.
MANAGER'S REPORT: I've attached it--lots of good info. about Visioning, the water tower cleaning, AMP's solar projects, etc.

Executive Session:
Personnel (Village Manager's Evaluation) and Real Estate (Train Station lease)
Poem: This is probably my favorite Billie Collins poem--I think it was the first poem of his that I ever encountered, and I've taken it from the wonderful Poetry 180 website that he created, while serving as poet laureate of the US. (It's also a book you can check out from the public library):

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
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