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Published: Friday, 10/12/2007

Gerken plugs energy bill at Statehouse


Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken testified in Ohio s Statehouse yesterday on behalf of a bill that would allow counties to pay for energy conservation projects with the savings generated over the life of the project.

Mr. Gerken told the House Local and Municipal Government Committee that passage of House Bill 295, sponsored by state Rep. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills), would trigger action in Lucas County on a $19 million energy plant in downtown Toledo that would heat and cool county-owned buildings using renewable resources like wood chips, corn, and sawdust.

Asked by the committee when the county commissioners would proceed with their plans if the bill were passed immediately by both the House and Senate, Mr. Gerken responded: Tomorrow.

From the county s side, we ve been proactive, Mr. Gerken told The Blade. The engineering and design [are] complete. If we could get the financing mechanism approved, we d want to get going in 2008.

It s exciting for us, he said.

Lucas County s commissioners have been reluctant to move forward with construction on their envisioned 8,000-square-foot plant because current state law requires counties to pay off such conservation projects within 10 years.

The plant would be built next to the former Child Study Institute on Michigan Street, and the commissioners hope for it to be open in 2009.

The plant would work by burning biomass in a boiler to generate steam, which would be pumped through an underground network of pipes to an initial network of six county-owned buildings. In summer months, the steam would be harnessed to power air conditioners.

The pipe network could be expanded to heat or cool other buildings, including some owned by the City of Toledo.

Mr. Gerken said he was joined by representatives from Chevron and the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, who Mr. Gerken said both testified in favor of the bill.

Mr. Gerken said he was told the bill should come out of committee by Nov. 1 and reach the state Senate in December. He said the bill has support in the senate from state Sens. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) and Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green).

Right now, this is a bill without opposition, Mr. Gerken said.

Contact Joe Vardon at: jvardon@theblade.com or 419-410-5055.

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