Photo by Wendy Davis

Mark Ekhoff and Steven Smith with CEDG talk to the county board management committee members about a solar power project opportunity.

Another energy company has approached the Iroquois County Board about setting up solar energy to lower costs at the county’s buildings.

Mark Ekhoff and Steven Smith with Clean Energy Design Group (CEDG) spoke to county board management committee members about its ideas Monday morning.

Ekhoff said CEDG is a local company — its office is in Springfield — and Smith has worked with Ameren. He said though it’s operations are based out of Illinois, it has completed projects in places like Massachusetts and Tennessee. Among its work in Illinois includes 28 school districts.

He said with Iroquois County being part of the federal “opportunity zone”, CEDG thinks the county buildings would be a good fit in taking part in a solar project.

It would at least be worth seeing if the county could benefit monetarily, said Smith.

The solar power structures, Smith said, “We build it; we maintain it.”

Ekhoff explained that initial investors would pay for building it. Government incentives pay the investors back.

Smith said if the project were in place, it could mean a 89 percent decrease in power usage through the utility company. Solar will take energy created and put it “behind the lines”, thus keeping Ameren from charging the fixed costs like for line usage. This cost is based on kilowatt hours per month.

The actual energy the county would use at the administrative center and courthouse/jail would cost about the same as it’s paying now, Ekhoff said.

Committee members made no decisions in working with CEDG

This isn’t the first solar company to approach the county board with a possible project. In May the board decided to allow Citrine to look at the county’s utility bills to see if it should take part in a “behind the meter” program with it. Citrine is still looking into the possibilities, said committee chairman Lyle Behrends.

The committee discussed leases for administrative center offices. Several leases are coming due. Amanda Longfellow, board assistant, said cost per square foot within the building has increased about 75 cents, taking it to $9.27. A lot of the contracts will need to be changed to reflect this, or the committee will have to figure out some sort of other adjustment.

There were two other matters brought up at the meeting.

First, the committee agreed to let bids for snow removal.

The goal is to get several bids for both one-year and three-year contract. It was noted that just because bids are sought doesn’t mean the county would have to accept one. There are board members who think it would be a better idea to keep the job “in house”.

Committeeman Kevin Bohlmann said, “$39,000 is too much to spend on snow removal.” This was the cost the current fiscal year.

Plus, said committee member Sherry Johnson, the cost for salting the parking lot and sidewalks “is killing us”.

It needs to be determined if hiring someone else and purchasing or leasing equipment to do the job would be less expensive, said Behrends.

From maintenance supervisor Chris Drake’s report, it was noted that the roof at the courthouse is 90 percent complete.

Finally, the committee decided to table any more discussion on working on drainage issues concerning its property on the west side of Grant Street.

Bohlmann said it needs to be determined if the city should be more responsible in the issue, and if there was a way more properties could be helped with the city taking a larger role by moving the water into the storm sewer.