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Ogdensburg council gives authority for solar contract; tables speed zone resolution

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City Manager John M. Pinkerton was given the green light by city council Monday night to sign a contract with the developers of a proposed solar power system on Champlain Street, that if successful, could save taxpayers $2.2 million in reduced energy costs over 25 years.

The council unanimously approved a resolution giving Mr. Pinkerton the authority to sign a “purchase power and site lease agreement” with RER Energy Group, Reading, Pa., and New Energy Equity LLC, Annapolis, Md., for a proposed six-acre solar panel array near the city landfill on Champlain Street.

The solar energy system’s construction is contingent on a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant that would help fund the project, but the power and lease agreement puts in place the terms for the city buying electricity from the operators of the facility, should the photovoltaic project come to fruition.

Word on whether the NYSERDA energy grant application will be successful, and how much the grant will be for, is expected in September, according to city officials.

Mr. Pinkerton told councillors Monday that the agreement he will sign with the companies involved a call for the city to pay 7.99 cents per kilowatt hour in the first year for electricity generated by the array, followed by an increase of 2.5 percent annually. He compared the deal to the current 11.27 cents per kilowatt hour the city is currently paying to National Grid and an estimated annual increase of 3.5 to four percent.

“If no increase were to take place with National Grid it would take over 15 years for us to get up to the 11.27 (cents),” Mr. Pinkerton said.

Mr. Pinkerton said the anticipated cost savings to city taxpayers over a 25-year period is approximately $2.2 million. He said if constructed, the solar power grid would generate between 1.1 and 1.3 megawatts per year - or about a third of the electricity the city uses to power its municipal buildings.

City Mayor William D. Nelson said the proposed solar system will not only generate cheaper electricity for the municipality, but would also bolster city coffers because the facility will also be a tax paying entity.

“In addition, the solar array will be taxable. So we save money on our energy costs, and we are going to be increasing the tax base slightly,” Mr. Nelson said. “And we will also be going green and reducing our reliance on...reducing our carbon footprint.”

Mr. Pinkerton agreed.

“Possibly being on our way to being a smart city,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

In other action at Monday’s City Council meeting, the board voted to table a resolution that would have raised the speed limit on several streets where former public and private schools were located. The board took the action after some residents expressed concerns about neighborhood children who still use the school grounds and playgrounds for recreation.

The council is considering raising the speed limit from 20 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.

Councilwoman Jennifer Stevenson said she would like City Police Chief Richard J. Polniak to find out if the city has the legal purview to keep the 20 mph speed limit, currently allowed in a designated “school zone,” if the schools are no longer open for business.

Mr. Polniak said initially that it’s his understanding of state vehicle and traffic law that keeping the special school zone speed limit would not be valid, if in fact the schools are no longer open for classes. However, Mr. Polniak told the council he would make a more thorough review of the law, and report back with his finding.

The council is considering raising the speed limit along parts of Gates, Jay, Judson, Knox, South Rosseel streets and Mansion Avenue. All of the streets are located adjacent to the former Lincoln Elementary School and Ogdensburg Catholic Central School properties, which have been closed to save money.

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