Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bexley city council meeting: solar panels generate heated debate; police open house set. John Matuszak reports for Bexley Public Radio.

A company wants to put solar panels on the carport of the new Bexley police station, but one of the key planners for the station wants to make sure the city doesn't get burned.

At the Dec. 8 city council meeting, David Cohen, with Dovetail Solar & Wind, and landscape architect Mark Scheiber offered the presentation on behalf of Solar Vision, the company that wants to install the panels to generate electricity for the station.

Cohen explained that the company recently obtained grants to allow it to take on projects in Bexley and Athens, Ohio. The Bexley project would entail installing 540 panels on four carports, with Solar Vision paying for the $935,000 construction and ongoing maintenance of the panels and other equipment.

Under the agreement, Bexley would pay Solar Vision for the electricity generated by the panels. Cohen estimated that the panels would generate betwen 15 and 20 percent of the electricity used by the station, and that this would translate into a savings of $2,267 in energy costs in the first year of the contract and $75,000 over 20 years.

Bexley would have an option to buy the equipment down the road, Cohen said.

Councilman Jeff McClelland asked what would happen if better technology became available five or 10 years down the road.

Cohen said big leaps in solar technology are not anticipated.

Lee Nathans, chairman of the Bexley Police Citizens Advisory Committee and for 10 years a leading advocate and planner for the station set to open this month, took exception to Solar Vision's sunny predictions.

He pointed out that many hours went into planning the design of the station, and the city hired the best environmental engineer in the state to make sure Bexley had a "green" building that was LEED (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. He is concerned that adding the panels at this late date could jeopardize that certification.

The city's architects considered and rejected adding solar panels because they did not believe they would generate enough power to the building, Nathans added.

He called for an independent analysis of all of Solar Vision's estimates for costs, engineering and energy savings, at the expense of the company.

The new police station replaces a structure built during Harry Truman's presidency, Nathans added. In response to Solar Vision's presentation, Nathans repeated the motto of Truman's home state, Missouri: "Show me."

The next step, according to council President Matt Lampke, will be to have City Attorney Lou Chodosh review the contract submitted by Solar Vision. Before council considers the project, the plans will have to be reviewed by the planning commission, board of zoning appeals and the tree commission, he noted.

The city is planning an open house for the new station at 559 North Cassingham Road for Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The station is not expected to be operational until Dec. 31, after which it will be restricted to those with police business.

A ribbon cutting and dedication will be held in the spring.

The new building triples the space available at the current station, built in 1950 as a fire station.

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Design is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. John Matuszak.

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