Friday, March 18th, 2011
By William Kincaid
Manure/algae digester, solar plants likely to be built
  CELINA - A private manure/algae digester is likely coming to town.
An ordinance to allow Optional Energy Partners of Florida to build and operate a digester on future city property easily passed Thursday evening during a special city council meeting where every seat was filled.
Councilman Ed Jeffries cast the sole dissenting vote.
Before voting on the final reading of the ordinance, council members listened to several residents opposed to the idea during the nearly three-hour meeting.
The digester is planned to be built on five acres of a 60-acre site the city is buying along Meyer Road, just south of state Route 29. The land already is annexed into the city. The site is being called the Celina Renewable Energy Center and also would include two solar plants.
Resident Susan Rausch said the biggest concern of residents is the proximity of the proposed digester to people.
"It's because you're so close to two schools and (residences)," she said.
Celina Planning and Community Development Director Kent Bryan said the property was the only site to come into play with a willing seller at a reasonable price.
Councilman Jeff Larmore said Optional Energy Partners looked at seven sites.
"Becky Steinbrunner said nothing has ever been done to improve the west side of town.
Bryan reminded her of the state Route 29 project completed a few years ago, when a half-mile stretch was widened and new storm lines, drains, sidewalks, curbs and gutters were installed.
Lannie Tindall said the west side is tough and has put up with nothing being done to the area. He said the bottom line is why should a digester be put in the residents' backyards.
In regard to Bryan stating the digester is part of an initiative to clean the lake, Tindall said that is not the responsibility of citizens.
"It's not our baby," he said.
Concerns about flooding, odor and declining property values also were addressed.
Jesse King, who is running for city mayor in the primary, said there's no proof that the property won't flood.
"There's nothing to prove it's not going to be a stinking mess," he said. "That scares me, and I'm fearless."
Janis Tindall said she obtained 500 signatures from citizens concerned about a digester. Council members are supposed to be a voice for them, she said.
Larmore said his phone has been ringing off the hook. He said he has heard both sides, adding those supporting the digester did not attend the meeting.
Bryan added that he would not proceed with the project if he felt it would hurt property values.
Just after 10 p.m., council president Jason King stopped the audience participation and asked council to take action. Soon after, it was approved.
Also at the meeting, council passed second reading of an ordinance to purchase the 60 acres for the renewable energy center from the Floyd E. and Joanne M. Heiby Trust for $720,000.
Optional Energy Partners is paying the city $400,000 for its five acres. The solar plants will be built by Solar Vision of Westerville, which agreed to pay the city $1.3 million for 28 acres.
Council unanimously passed final reading of the ordinance allowing Solar Vision to construct its plants.
Council also suspended the rules and passed another ordinance detailing an interconnection upgrade that Solar Vision has agreed to construct at an estimated $1.5 million. The system, which includes a substation, lines and poles, will allow the city's electrical system to handle the additional power.
Any other renewable energy producer - including Optional Energy Partners - that uses Solar Vision's substation and interconnection improvements would have to pay Solar Vision $150,000 for each megawatt it produces.
The two solar operations would produce a total of 5 megawatts, while the digester is expected to produce up to 1.5 megawatts.
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