Special meeting held to discuss solar facility


By Kelsey Kimbler - kkimbler@registerherald.com



EATON — Preble County Commissioners held a special information meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19 to discuss the two solar facilities proposed for Preble County.

Commission President Rodney Creech opened the meeting by addressing the crowd.

“This meeting was requested by the Concerned Citizens of Preble County, I’ve been attending their meetings. A lot of people work during the day, so they asked that we have this in the evening. This meeting is for you, so please share your input and concerns, whatever they are,” he said.

“There has been a lot of talk about the PILOT program (Payment in Lieu of Taxes). We thought we had options, but after meeting with Dale Arnold last week, we unfortunately got some news we didn’t like. The PILOT program way be the way to go, because it is all or nothing. If we don’t do the PILOT, we get zero. That is something we need to keep in the back of our minds.”

The floor was then opened to the public for input. Concerns shared included:

•A call for action from the commissioners. They requested the board develop a plan to move forward, including filing a motion to intervene within the projects.

Commissioner Creech responded, they have filed motions to intervene in the projects and do plan to be a part of future conversations.

•Many consider there to be a lack of transparency with the project. They feel they were informed of the project too late to stop it from moving forward. Now, for many, there is a lack of trust for those in power — both the board of commissioners and Open Road Renewables LLC.

This includes doubt the company will be a positive community partner. Open Road Renewables LLC will sell the facilities once they have prepared the certificate and many in the community are worried about the company which may purchase the facilities.

“When it comes to transparency there has not been any issues with our office, I can assure you that. We found out about the meeting at the fairgrounds a week before the meeting. We got caught off guard just like everybody else. We’re playing catch up,” Creech said.

•Those in attendance were also worried about whether emergency services in the area are ready for these two solar facilities. They are worried about funding for training and staffing moving forward and potential disaster situations.

•Many are worried about how the solar facilities will affect the natural migration of wildlife, including deer which can carry TB and Lepto. If the solar facility pushes more deer into the surrounding farms, will these diseases be more easily transmitted to their farm animals?

•Several community members aired grievances over the PILOT program, urging the commissioners not to accept the offer.

“There are two different PILOT programs, one that is specific for project and one that covers the county. If we were to do the PILOT, it would be the one for project. If it is hero or zero, I don’t think we want to go zero. That is the decision we need to make,” Creech responded.

“There are incentives available that they can go out and grab if we tell them no on the PILOT. We risk getting any dollars and they can go get these incentives,” Auditor Lavon Wright said. “If we decide to not go with the PILOT program, it becomes a market value and a public utilities property tax. That is how I would tax it in my office.

“Again, we have never done that in the State of Ohio. The Ohio Department of Taxation has not done a public utilities personal property value yet on solar panels. I do have the numbers on market value, but substantially low.”

Open Road Renewables LLC Vice President Mike Volpe also spoke on the PILOT program during the meeting.

“The value of the PILOT, if [both solar facilities] are built, will be $1.7 million per year of additional tax revenue, with no services provided by the county. $1.7 million per year for the life of the project of tax revenue, per the $9,000 per megawatt PILOT,” Volpe said.

•Some didn’t agree with Solar Energy coming into Preble County, because they see it as a “poor way to produce energy.”

Volpe and Open Road Renewables LLC Vice President David Savage encouraged all with questions to reach out to them.

By Kelsey Kimbler

kkimbler@registerherald.com

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH