By Julie Ann Madden
The Akron-Westfield School Board received two wind turbine lease proposals at their Jan. 14 meeting from First Priority Inc. Consultant Dr. Harold Prior.
Two separate companies had submitted proposals to lease the wind turbine, repair it and keep it operational through 2020, which is when the school district’s Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) expire with the City of Akron and Heartland Consumer Power District, said Prior.
“I was shocked and amazed — we have two, not one but two lease proposals,” said Prior, noting by the time the potential leasees send their technicians to check out the wind turbine site and its condition prior to entering into a lease with the Akron-Westfield School District, the lease agreement process could take about 30 days.
With a lease agreement, the school district would continue to own the wind turbine and receive a lease payment or share of the revenues produced by the turbine. At the end of the lease agreement, the district would sell the wind turbine to the leasee for $1 and other considerations, he explained.
“What that would mean is you would be relieved of — in terms of — having to decommission the turbine or remove the turbine’s foundation and any of the underground transmission cabling,” said Prior. “Basically, upon executing the lease and satisfying all the Iowa code legal requirements, you’d potentially see the wind turbine setting there operating but you would have washed your hands of any future expenses.”
A third option was to sell the wind turbine which would include the district storing the wind turbine’s tower sections and blades until the vendor found a buyer so the vendor didn’t have to transport it first off site then later to a buyer. Prior wasn’t sure how long this vendor’s offer would last.
Prior also presented emails from a Valmet gear box vendor who really wanted to sell the district another Valmet gear box, which is the type of gear box that has failed twice in the turbine’s first 10 years of operation. He told the board he’d stressed to this vendor the board is not interested in anything to do with a Valmet gear box.
“It’s been remarkable the turns and twists of developments in this project,” said Prior. “I would never have predicted these kinds of contacts.”
“In large part because of the local news coverage some of these vendors’ initial contacts were to the school district which were then relayed to us and sometimes it was directly to us,” he said.
“All options are still on the table,” said Prior concluding his monthly report. “I can’t imagine we’ll get any more twists and turns to the project.”
“I just can’t envision another circumstance with another set of options,” he said. “So now’s the point where the board needs to narrow it down and come to a consensus on which way to go.”
“We’ll stick with you guys — only for expense money,” said Prior, “and if you need us, we’ll be here to help.”
“Thank you,” he added, explaining with this project, he has learned more about the wind industry and made valuable contacts that he didn’t know existed.
The school board entered into executive session to discuss the options and view the actual lease agreement proposals.
After 45 minutes, they returned to open session where Board President Jim Black told the audience that no action would be taken this evening and furthermore, the agenda item to call for bids on the wind turbine repair project or the wind turbine disassembling project was tabled.
In other business, the board:
• Unanimously approved amending the Early Retirement Policy by a vote of 5-0 with Board Members Roger Oetken and Nick Schoenfelder absent.
• Unanimously approved the termination of A-W Head Custodian Norm Poel, which was done to realign custodial staff for financial purposes, according to Shared Superintendent Randy Collins. The termination was effective 30 days after Jan. 4.
• Unanimously approved three agreements with Premier Communications to provide telecommunications (phone) service, internet service and telecommunications service.
• Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the issuance of individual procurement credit cards (P-cards) for the purchase of technology. With P-cards, the district gets cash kick-back incentive.
• The board ended the meeting by holding a closed session regarding an employee’s performance evaluation and an exempt strategy session in connection with the Master Contract negotiations with Akron-Westfield Education Association (AWEA).