by Julie Ann Madden
As the first consultant’s contract runs out, the Akron-Westfield School Board unanimously decided to go with another to try to find a solution to its inoperable wind turbine.
First Priority Consulting Group owner Dr. Harold Prior presented his wind turbine consulting proposal for the second time in four months.
Back in June, then Superintendent Larry Williams told the board it would have been great to have such consultants nine months ago but some of the consultants’ work now may be redundant.
In August, Shared Superintendent Randy Collins reported in open session that the board’s counteroffer to a prospective buyer’s price had received no response. This buyer had been found through Consultant Joe Graham of Blue Sky Wind.
Dr. Prior, a former school administrator, told the board his company would “provide you the widest range of options and our best estimates of the economic impact of those options.”
“I think your turbine has terrific possibilities,” he said, noting that the three main options would still be to fix it, sell it or develop an agreement with an area community college for educational purposes. “It seems the best option is to get the turbine operating (first).”
The consulting agreement is for approximately five months of work at $1,000 per month plus mileage and printing costs they incur.
Dr. Prior said they would provide monthly reports of their progress, and by the board’s October meeting, he planned to have a feasibility study completed.
Their job would be totally completed when the “wind turbine’s removed, sold or repaired and operating,” said Dr. Prior, adding their consulting work will include researching funding avenues, including low-interest loans, to get the turbine operational.
Dr. Prior is part of a wind energy association which will be lobbying to get state legislators to consider adding turbine maintenance to the list of Physical Plant & Equipment Levy (PPEL) and School Infrastructure Local Option (SILO) tax uses. Right now, all maintenance costs must come out of the school district’s General Fund.
“I’m still torn,” said Board Member Jodi Thompson, “because I thought as a board we decided not spend any more money on this.”
“One way or another we have to do something with (the turbine),” said Board Member Josh Martinsen. “It would be nice to have a list of options to go through to really know what we can do with it.”
“I’d be interested in seeing a list of options,” said Board Member Deb Jordt. “I’ve always felt every time I’ve driving into the community I see that sitting there as an icon. When we look at what the potential possibilities could be — linking with community colleges, other entities, making a more concerted effort for our students to be on the learning edge and receiving some of that education — that was always my hope.”
“That was always my hope, too,” said Thompson, “until we can only give our teachers $150 for supplies. We are struggling to maintain what we have out of our General Fund…It still would be good to see what options are out there now but personally, I’m still hesitant on a total repair because we can’t afford it.”
“I am, too,” said Martinsen, “but that’s just one option.”
Jordt made the motion to enter into the contract with First Priority Consultants and Board Member Phil Parks seconded it. The vote was unanimous, 6-0, with Board Member Roger Oetken absent.