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April 2, 2013

Logansport council sets aside $778,000 to consultants

Logansport City Council approved the appropriation of an additional $778,000 to the team of consultants assisting with the Logansport Municipal Utilities power plant project, an amount that will fund their involvement through the negotiations that began last month with the proposed plant’s developer.

Florida-based Pyrolyzer LLC has proposed to build the plant, which would be powered by refuse-derived fuel, without financial contribution from the city for amounts that have ranged from $400 million to $566 million. Its proposal states the plant would generate electricity at an initial rate of no more than 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. LMU and city officials say the motivation behind building a new plant comes from the impending multi-million dollar upgrades that would be necessary in order to continue with its current electricity distribution and future fees that will be imposed on coal-powered plants by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The $778,000 puts the total amount of money appropriated to the consultants at over $1.5 million. Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said he plans to pursue having Pyrolyzer reimburse the city for the consultants’ services as negotiations continue. He said he expects the negotiations to last into October.

The council approved the appropriation 5-2. Councilmen Chuck LaDow and Jeremy Ashcraft, who both voted against allowing the city to enter into negotiations with Pyrolyzer, voted against the appropriation.

Several Logansport citizens spoke during the public comments portion of the council meeting.

Mercedes Brugh expressed concerns regarding the amount of money that has been spent on the consultants so far.

“Recovery only works if the project is successful,” she said, adding that she’d like to see LMU and the city request an offer from the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, a wholesale power provider.

Dave Kitchell, a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune, made a similar request and suggested LMU refinance its current contract with Duke Energy.

Councilman Bob Bishop responded to these concerns by saying wholesale energy suppliers like the Indiana Municipal Power Agency did not respond to the request for proposals LMU issued last November for companies to suggest a way to address the city’s energy needs.

“I think probably the reason they didn’t is because they probably couldn’t meet the demands that we made with the [request for proposals],” Bishop said.

Diana Brown asked the council during the public comments portion if anything was being done to lower current energy costs until the Pyrolyzer plant is developed, should negotiations work out. Franklin said LMU’s current contract with Duke expires in 2018 and that he doubted the company would be able to reduce rates.

Brown also asked if LMU had an alternative plan if negotiations with Pyrolyzer failed.

LMU Superintendent Paul Hartman addressed this concern, saying that he didn’t want to speak on it too much for fear of it hindering current negotiations with Pyrolyzer, but said LMU is currently working on an alternative plan and that it involves Duke Energy, the Wabash Valley Power Association and the Indiana Municipal Power Agency.

“We have a backup plan for everything,” Hartman said.

In other news, the council:

*Approved an additional appropriation of $13,700 from the general fund for a data processing employee in the Logansport Clerk-Treasurer’s Department and $23,725 from the general fund for extra office help for the Logansport Police Department.

*Tabled two ordinances pertaining to two respective proposed annexation areas south of the city until a required public hearing on the matter is held. The public hearing is scheduled for May 20.

*Approved extending the hiring deadline for the movie theater being developed to May 1. Councilman Bob Bishop said the desire to extend the deadline came from the theater’s developer wanting to wait until he could get better projection equipment and because he underwent a major surgery recently.

*Approved the appropriation of $30,000 for the purchase of new bleachers at Steinman Field. Logansport Parks Committee members added $10,000 to their original proposal of $20,000 in order to ensure the bleachers could be secured with a concrete pad underneath them.

*Approved an amendment to the ordinance pertaining to the downtown overlay district standards, which would allow senior housing developments downtown to use up to 75 percent of the first floor for residential units. The ordinance will go back to the Logansport Plan Commission before it can be voted on by the council again.

*Approved an ordinance allowing the Logansport Parks and Recreation Board to designate certain park areas as nature preserves so as to deter trapping and hunting.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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