A “green” opportunity for the Village of Oak Harbor turned faces red at a recent meeting of village council.
Newly-seated councilmember Sue Rahm was upset that an Efficiency Smart Schedule program turned down by council late last year was once again on the meeting agenda for approval.
When she asked why it was again on the agenda, Mayor Bill Eberle said he had it placed there.
The three-year-old program grew out of Oak Harbor’s relationship with AMP-Ohio and its investment in a southern Ohio coal-fired plant, according to council members. As a result of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, AMP-Ohio retired a coal-fired plant in 2010 due to violations of the Clean Air Act.
After the settlement, Oak Harbor joined the Efficiency Smart energy program for $140,000 in 2011. That contract recently expired and the company had returned with a new proposed contract around $100,000.
In exchange, the company provides energy studies, offered tips to residents for energy savings and hands out rebate coupons for various things such as replacing old refrigerators and washing machines with more efficient models.
Rahm said most of those savings ideas are already common knowledge. She insisted the mayor did not have the legal right to put the item on the agenda, citing Ohio Municipal League rules as she turned over a handful of papers to Village Solicitor Jim Barney.
Barney, who handed back the paperwork without reviewing it, sided with the mayor, saying he did have the right to place items on the agenda.
But, Rahm countered, “It’s such as waste. We already voted it down.”
However, the mayor said more information was available since that vote, including access to an $8,200 grant.
That amount is paltry in comparison to the thousands the contract demands, Rahm insisted.
“My thought is we really need to watch our pennies,” Rahm noted. “Especially in lieu of forthcoming major expenses coming to fix the massive sewer problem throughout the village. The benefits to me do not outweigh the costs to the village.”
The mayor insisted the program is an opportunity to help village residents save money. He added that “we have to move on” from a single focus on the sewer system and deal with other village business accordingly.
“Can we afford it?” Councilmember Jackie Macko asked.
“In that fund,” Eberle said, referring to the electrical fund.
“That’s the only fund we haven’t bankrupted yet,” Councilman Jon Fickert interjected.
Fickert moved to vote on the issue as an emergency measure in hopes of getting it off the agenda for good.
“We voted on it a month ago and we need to move on,” Fickert told his peers.
His move spurred a verbal spat between him and Barney on the legalities of the councilman’s motion.
“I’m sensing a resistance,” Fickert told Barney.
Ordinances and resolutions that come before council usually require three readings before a final vote. They can, however, be subject to an emergency clause, which speeds up the vote and possible enactment.
An emergency clause takes away the right to referendum, Barney noted.
“The law says you need a legitimate reason (to invoke an emergency clause.) If you think it’s legitimate then have at it,” Barney said.
Fickert made the motion. He along with Rahm, Macko and Jim Seamon voted for the emergency clause. Councilmen Don Douglas and Brad Weis voted against.
An emergency clause vote requires approval of the three-fourths of the members to pass. The vote resulted in two-thirds of the council supporting the measure.
As a result, the energy program proposal will have its second reading at the first council meeting in February.
Telephone messages left for Eberle and Administrator Robert Pauley at the town hall days after the meeting for more information on the energy program were not returned.