City hopes to add solar panels to project


HUNTINGBURG — Adding solar panels to the water treatment plant in Huntingburg will ultimately lead to the plant not having a monthly electric bill.

The Huntingburg Common Council decided Tuesday it would be worth the $700,000 needed to get the panels.

“We have role to be as proactive as we can; people expect us to go to renewables when we can,” Councilman Jeff Bounds said. “It makes sense to do this.”

The city is planning to make upgrades to the water treatment plant to double its capacity. That includes adding four filters to double the plant’s capacity, and burying a pit in the ground near Chestnut Street to tie the south water tank back into the plant’s distribution system. A pit is like a big vault that has in it a valve that runs automatically from the pit to the filter plant. The valve opens and closes to allow water to be brought back into the plant.

Also, a 100-year-old water main under U.S. 231 will be replaced from Second to First avenues, from First to Third streets and from Fifth to 12th streets.

The entire project is estimated to cost $6.3 million and will include obtaining a loan from the State Revolving Fund. That would make the plant’s monthly loan payments $31,921.

Water Superintendent Gary Meyerholtz explained to the council Tuesday evening that adding the solar field will increase the project amount to $7 million, making the monthly payments $35,488.

Having three or four rows of panels would produce 100% of the plant’s electric, he said. The panels are designed to last 35 to 40 years. If the panels are paid for in 20 years, as planned, “there would be 15 years that the water department should not have an electric bill,” Meyerholtz said.

Bounds said that his only hesitation is if there would be a new breakthrough in later years that decreases the costs of solar panels. “But we could be waiting forever for that,” he acknowledged.

If panels do become more efficient, any new panels would be adaptable to the solar field, Meyerholtz said.

Bids for the upgrades will likely be sought sometime this fall.

The council also:

• Recommended to the Huntingburg Board of Public Works and Safety that the limb collection site be kept at the street department’s former site on First Street. The street department has moved to a new site, on West 19th Street.

• Supported the city’s plan to pay for a needed wastewater capacity study. The public works board decided that the $40,000 plan will be paid for through the wastewater department’s budget; $20,000 will come from the 2019 budget and $20,000 will come from the 2020 budget.

• Heard that Spinner is appointing Brad Coomer as superintendent of the wastewater department. He will replace Mike Kemp, who is retiring at the end of August. Coomer has been withe the wastewater department since 2010 and has been a foreman since 2012.

• Learned that Mayor Denny Spinner is appointing Travis Gentry as the city’s new safety director. Gentry, who works with the Indiana Department of Labor, will start July 1. He will train with current Safety Director Don Foerster until Foerster retires on July 19.

• Set the next council meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 24, at City Hall, 508 E. Fourth St. It was moved from June 25 because Spinner will be in Indianapolis at a meeting with the National League of Cities’ transportation and infrastructure services federal advocacy committee, on which he serves.

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