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Electric savings, annexation and rezoning discussed at committee meetings

Matt Echelberry mechelberry@civitasmedia.com

February 5, 2014

Back to back meetings were held Feb. 5 for the Utilities Committee and the Laws and Ordinances, Zoning and Development Committee.


Utilities continued discussion on whether or not to approve a contract with Efficiency Smart during its Feb. 5 meeting. Last month representatives from the company gave a presentation on the program, which Galion had previously been involved in. It offers alternatives for energy savings for both businesses and residences.


Committee chair Mike Richart explained that the previous Efficiency Smart contract the city had was different because the city participated in lieu of paying an EPA fine. Now the city has an option to re-enter the program on a voluntary basis


If the new contract is approved, the term would be three years and the cost would be


$143,000 per year, or $429,000 total. However, Richart said there is no cap on the cost because the actual amount depends on how many municipalities sign up for the program.


Billy Bodkins, an audience member, asked about the $40,000 grant that was mentioned during Efficiency Smart’s presentation. If the city enters the program by the end of March, it will receive a one-time grant, which City Auditor Brian Treish explained is over-collected money being redistributed to the participants.


Bob Cerar, another audience member, asked what happens if the city does not approve the contract.


While there would be no direct consequences aside from not participating in the program, Treisch noted that two major employers are currently working with Efficiency Smart on projects. “I’m not sure what happens with them if the city does not sign up,” he said.


The committee also heard from Mark Whitaker, purchasing director at Covert Manufacturing. Covert contracted with Efficiency Smart last year to implement several energy-saving initiatives. Whitaker informed city officials that Covert did see a big savings on electric bills


“But more than that, it’s brought a focus to look at further projects,” he said, adding that the company hopes to get an environmental certification from the International Organization for Standardization.


Joe Kleinknecht, president/CEO of the Galion-Crestline Area Chamber of Commerce, stated, “We know our large users pay about 15-18 percent more and they’re the ones that employ the most people. They’re the ones that really benefit from this.”


On a side note, residential customers also benefitted. The Utility Office gave out free energy efficient lightbulbs to any electric customer, as part of the program.


According to Kleinknecht, for the last three years the actual annual savings to the city was $422,000 for participating. Efficiency Smart estimates $6 million in lifetime savings through the program.


After further discussion, the committee passed a motion to send legislation to Council. They may call back representatives from Efficiency Smart to give a presentation to the full Council.


The other business item that evening came from local attorney Tim O’Leary. He explained he has been working with the owner of the new car wash, Keep It Classy, to annex it into the city. “I’ve found the annex process is time consuming and costly,” he said.


He asked the committee to review the 1.5 percent surcharge for water and sewer users in for non-incorporated areas of the city, and proposed that during the pending annexation, applicants become eligible for a rebate for the surcharge incurred while waiting.


Richart agreed to place the issue on the committee’s agenda of its next meeting.


Laws and Ordinances


The Laws and Ordinances, Zoning and Development Committee met immediately after Utilities. It reviewed a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone a property within a R1-C District to a conditional use (to make it Multi-Family).


However, Building Inspector Bob Johnston pointed out the request was only for one property, not the entire district. There was confusion over the meeting minutes and the commission’s intent.


Committee member Tom Fellner read from the meeting minutes: “‘To add multi-family residences to R1-C zoning districts.’ That’s what was typed out.”


According to an Inquirer story about the Oct. 22 meeting, the commission discussed a rezoning request from First Federal Bank. It unanimously passed a motion to add multi-family to the R1-C conditional use and approve the property for conditional use.


Rod Vose was at the Laws and Ordinances meeting on behalf of First Federal. He said the property in question is 6,000 square feet, making it too large to sell as a single unit. The purpose of rezoning it is to divide the home into three units.


After some further discussion, Fellner said, “I think we need some clarification from the commission.”


In an effort not to further slow down the process, the motion to send the item back to the Planning and Zoning Commission included a provision that the commission hold an emergency meeting and send a new recommendation straight to Council for consideration.