January 12, 2014

City council OKs mayor to negotiate with more than Pyrolyzer

City council OKs mayor to negotiate with more than Pyrolyzer.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — The second vote on a change to Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin’s negotiating abilities with a renewable energy firm was met with even more changes at Friday’s rescheduled Logansport City Council meeting.

Franklin has been negotiating since last March with Pyrolyzer LLC, out of Boca Raton, Fla., over an electric-generating plant powered by refuse-derived fuel now estimated to cost between $700 million and $800 million.

Negotiations were expected to conclude by October 2013, when it was announced it would likely take until December. Logansport City Council amended legislation last month authorizing Franklin to negotiate with Pyrolyzer by striking the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline.

Council voted on the final reading of this measure Friday with yet more amendments.

The latest changes permit Franklin to negotiate with not only Pyrolyzer, but any “qualified provider.”

John Molitor, an Indianapolis attorney providing special counsel to the city for the plant project told attendees of the city council meeting Friday that Pyrolyzer has yet to achieve the objectives of the city and the Logansport Utility Service Board regarding its rate stabilization initiative.

“It’s necessary at this point to pursue some other alternative,” he said, while seeing if a deal could still be worked out with Pyrolyzer.

In an interview after the meeting, Franklin urged the project’s goals of acquiring a plant for Logansport that lowers electric rates using renewable fuel is not in jeopardy. He said the latest amendments “still get us to the finish line” and could possibly lead to an even larger investment.

Franklin went on to call Pyrolyzer’s proposal “still very viable” and said the amendments may even improve talks with the company.

“This we hope motivates Pyrolyzer to be more aggressive,” Franklin said.

Council passed both the amendments and the measure in its entirety 4-3. Council members Bob Bishop, Joe Buck, Gary Fox and Charlie Hastings voted in favor of the measures and council members Jeremy Ashcraft, Chuck LaDow and Teresa Popejoy voted against them.

Before the votes, Logansport City Councilwoman Teresa Popejoy asked why the latest amendments were not provided to council members until about an hour before the meeting. Franklin said he and legal counsel had been working on them through the afternoon.

Jim Brugh, a Logansport lawyer who attended the meeting, took issue with this timing and urged council members to “not get in a hurry” over the “significant change,” referring to how much of the measure had been altered and added onto.

Brugh has been an outspoken opponent of the project since its inception, most notably representing a Logansport citizen who filed a lawsuit against the city contesting Franklin’s authority to negotiate with Pyrolyzer. The case ended up being argued before the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the city in November.

In the public comments portion of Friday’s council meeting, Brugh, who wrote the ordinance creating the city’s utility service board as a city councilman in 1978, said rate stabilization initiatives like the one being pursued by the city were the responsibility of the utility service board and not the mayor or council.

Brugh has mentioned this concern at utility service board meetings as well. Board members have commended him for his fervor on the matter while also expressing faith in Franklin’s negotiations.

Brugh said he interpreted the amendments passed Friday to mean that the project with Pyrolyzer has failed.

“The continuing electric generation question returns to the utility service board,” Brugh said. “That is not the council or the mayor’s legal business.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK