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September 19, 2018

8/16/2018 11:04:00 AM
City council looking at renewable-energy firm's proposal
Daily News

New faces at last night's Robinson City Council meeting revealed some intriguing offers that could benefit the city.

First up was Jamie Goldenburg, an energy consultant from Bluestem Energy Solutions, Omaha, Neb., who spoke to the council about creating a renewable energy project.

"Bluestem's aim is to lower electric costs and potentially increase extra revenue for use of renewable energy for our municipal partners," Goldenburg said.

Despite being based out of Nebraska, Goldenburg said Bluestem has provided these projects throughout the country. Their closest partner to Robinson is El Dorado.

Bluestem has worked on projects using wind, solar energy and natural gas. They are usually based in areas such as the tops of buildings and parking lot structures.

"We work with cities' agreements, such as Ameren here, and won't break those contracts," Goldenburg said. "We'll provide 20 to 60 percent of electrical energy use at the specified facilities."

Goldenburg added that the company typically begins its work with a community by creating a free energy report or feasibility study, which will help Bluestem work with a business or property to see if they can use the area to lower electric costs.

The finished report suggest recommended projects If, when the report is finished and returned six to nine months later, the municipality is unsatisfied with the project, it can be aborted without cost.

If approved, a contract could range from 10 to 30 years. Bluestem would own and operate the projects and there would be no additional costs tacked onto the city's energy bill.

Aldermen Gene Sinclair and Russell Snider voiced questions about what would happen if the company were to go bankrupt while the project is ongoing, or if there is an opt-out clause if the project does not go smoothly.

Goldenburg responded that Bluestem is backed up by their banks, which would take over their project if they go bankrupt. An opt-out clause would be subject to negotiations with the city.

At the end of Goldenburg's pitch, Mayor Roger Pethtel said that the city would have to confer with city attorney Frank Weber.

"There is no need to vote on it [tonight] because we need to negotiate a lot of things," Weber said.

The next presenter was a representative from Metro Communications.

The telecommunications company is busy setting up fiber-optic lines throughout the area, including from Trimble to Gordon and near Crawford Memorial Hospital. They will also be installing fiber optics at Robinson City Hall sometime next year for the Pepsi Mid-America project.

In the meantime, they said they would interested in installing Internet lines for city hall. These underground lines would be more robust and provide better protection.

The council agreed to continue further discussion on the item.

In other business, City Treasurer Denise Jobe announced that 352 kids have signed on to play soccer this fall.

The city owns the league and reimburses Ryan Rennels, who takes care of equipment and field work. Aldermen agreed to reimburse Rennels $1,771 for his work and will pay $1,365 for officials. A total of $6,714 was also approved to Mag Graphics for uniforms.

Parks and Recreation Director Mike Shimer also added that Washington Park will be installing a large temporary net along the north end near the property line due to concern of poison ivy in that area this season.

Shimer's request to accept a $5,000 donation from Marathon Petroleum was approved by the council. As of now there is not an intended use for that donation.

After months of deliberation and trying to find a bidder, the city agreed to purchase an automatic transfer switch for the Robinson Community Center generator. The cost of $9,874, including installation will be awarded to LeFever Electric.

In zoning business, Shimer told aldermen that after a public hearing, the zoning board unanimously recommended construction of a 40-by-56-foot metal garage at 1004 Redwood. The council approved the project.

Snider, representing the street committee, voiced concern from a resident about problems with East Plum from Jackson to Lincoln.

Steve McGahey informed the committee that he was worried about semi-tractor and trailers traveling along their area running into a utility pole near the street. The council agreed to ban tractor-trailers from that stretch of the street.

The council also agreed to accept a bid of $61,187.77 from Ambraw Asphalt for resurfacing South Cross. City Engineer Jeff Hillard said it was 3 1/2 percent more than his estimate, but still feels that it is a good bid.

There were concerns about another bid received from Huff Sealing Corporation for maintenance on the community center's parking lot. Hillard said the bid was for $12,905, which is about 26 percent more than his estimate.

Alderman Karen Bowman said she was under the belief that the community center committee had budgeted more than that. However, Hillard said he felt the best move was to accept the bid because he doesn't believe it will change. Also, as it was the only bid received, he doubt the city will find any other bidders.

"I've talked to Lyle Huff and he explained they've had some issues with material prices going up," Hillard said. "This is a by product in the steel industry, and where ever it's coming from they're having to import it and it's driven the cost up."

Despite the concern the council agreed to accept the bid and use the money from the downtown TIF fund.

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