ST. PARIS – The St. Paris Village Council met on November 1 to discuss town improvement projects and public events.
Mayor Brenda Cook noted the upcoming Civil War Walk-Through at Evergreen Cemetery events hosted by Jared Shank. Shank recently restored the World War I cannon displayed in Harmon Park in St. Paris; he will now share his expertise by leading the walk-through and highlighting Civil War veterans laid to rest in the cemetery. This event will be held twice, on November 12 and November 13, at 4 p.m free of charge. Donations will be accepted.
Solar addition considered
In the meeting’s next segment, the council welcomed Brent Boyd, the Chief Operating Officer of Solar Power & Light, LLC. In 2010, Solar Polar & Light installed the solar panels for St. Paris’s water treatment plant, and Boyd pitched the council the possibility of expanding the village’s amount of solar panels.
“Thank you for trusting us in helping you be more sustainable,” Boyd said in reference to the longstanding partnership between St. Paris and Solar Power & Light.
When Solar Power & Light opened their business as a financial and billing institution in 2010, St. Paris signed on as one of their first customers. Now, Solar Power & Light has grown into a full-service energy company, noting it is capitalizing on the stable cost of solar power compared to the volatility of fuel prices.
Boyd suggested that the council consider adding an extension to their renewable energy contract—an additional 100 kilowatts on top of the 70 kilowatt system that is already operating. St. Paris regularly consumes more energy today, as compared to 10 years ago, due to the new water treatment plant, which creates an opportunity to expand St. Paris’s solar usage.
Boyd’s statistics project that the new 100 kilowatt system could save St. Paris between $30,000 and $50,000 in energy bills over the next 25 years, based on regularly increasing rates with the regional utility AES.
An additional money saver would be for St. Paris to purchase the new solar-powered system from Solar Power & Light through the ownership program. The energy company would initially own the $100,000 system as the village rented its services, but at the 6-year mark, the village could purchase the system at a pro-rated amount between $80,000 and $90,000 and utilize the system’s services through its 25 warrantied years. Boyd emphasized his company’s desire to complete a contract expansion before the year’s end.
As the council discussed whether the solar expansion is viable, members raised questions about maintenance, upkeep and the costs-savings comparison over time.
Village Administrator Spencer Mitchell weighed in, saying, “I don’t see a lot of risk in this. The long-term plan is to save the taxpayers of St. Paris money by investing in solar energy. I think this is something to consider.”
The council called for a detailed breakdown of numbers, which Mitchell pledged to provide in future meetings.
Demolition of old junior high
Moving forward to another topic, Mitchell then shared aerial photographs of the demolition activity at the old junior high at 370 East Main Street.
The demolition crew began work on October 20. The building has been fully levelled, and the gym and basement have already been backfilled. During the next week, workers will be separating materials—wood, brick, concrete, and iron—to begin the transport process.
Mitchell reported there are fewer materials to transport than anticipated, so the service will be cheaper. Once sorting is complete, St. Paris will set aside a quantity of bricks for the community members to claim, as a keepsake reminding them of the school.
Mitchell encouraged anyone desiring a brick to call the municipal building and give their name to reserve one. He also stressed the importance that citizens stay away from the demolition site until the village announces that it is safe to approach.
Later in the meeting, Fiscal Officer Marc McGuire explained the payment schedule for the loan on the demolition. Resolution 1341 states that up to $65,000 could be borrowed for the project with a 3% interest rate over five years; McGuire estimates that interest accrued to total about $5,000, making the overall loan amount about $70,000. Semi-annual payments will begin in 2022, likely in March or April. Board member Terry Ervin made a motion to approve the financials, which was seconded by board member Steve Lett and unanimously passed.
Following the mayor’s notes, the council entered into committee discussions. Ervin stated that the next Johnson-St. Paris (JSP) Fire Board meeting would be held on November 9 at 7 p.m. at the firehouse. He also reported that assistant chief Ben Pence, Sr. has been appointed interim chief due to former Chief Scott Massie’s retirement last month. The board is in the process of hiring a new chief, and Ervin will update the council on the process.
Randy Smith, member of the Street Committee, reported new projects upcoming in 2022, pending the finalization of financials. Additionally, Mitchell mentioned that the Champaign County Engineer’s Office will be working on the west side of the county in 2022 and offering tar and chip services to repair streets. Mitchell and the street committee are working with the engineer’s office to identify possible roads in the village that could benefit from this temporary fix until an overall repaving can be officially scheduled.
“Even if we’re not able to completely reconstruct some streets, this may help us save money in the long run,” Mitchell said. “The tar and chip is cost-efficient, and it helps preserve what we have until we can get what we really want to have done.”
Mayor Cook then progressed to old business. She conducted the second reading of Ordinance 906, which is a supplement to the Zoning Ordinance of the Village of St. Paris and concerns the Vacant Building Maintenance Enforcement Program. As no council member voiced opposition, the ordinance will be read a third time at the next meeting and put to a vote. If passed, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days after its passage.
Board member Susan Prince then noted another item of old business: November 1 marked the six-month anniversary and end of the probationary period for Chief Eric Smith of the St. Paris Police Department. At this time, the mayor and Safety Committee must evaluate the chief’s performance and recommend him for either permanent appointment or dismissal.
Prince motioned to hire Smith as an official full-time police chief and the council approved her motion at the predetermined salary of $47,500 annually with a canine care allowance of $6,235.32.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the village council is November 15.