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Public invited to comment on energy zone designation Feb. 23

The Clinton County commissioners will host a public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 23 to gauge interest in designating the county as an Alternative Energy Zone (AEZ).

All three commissioners – Mike Curry, Commission President Randy Riley and Pat Haley – have voiced approval of the designation, which would provide tax incentives for renewable energy projects in the county.

“On the surface it sounds like a no-brainer,” Riley said on Monday. “But we want to hear from the county.”

The public meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in the commissioners’ office on the second floor of the Clinton County Courthouse in Wilmington.

The county’s AEZ status would piggy-back on similar legislation enacted by the city of Wilmington in July 2009, which designated Wilmington as the nation’s first Green Enterprise Zone.

Clinton won’t be the first Ohio county to carry the AEZ title if the commissioners vote to pass the resolution. Shortly after the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 232 in June 2010, a bill which broadened the list of tax-exempt renewable energy projects to include wind and clean-coal in addition to solar, Paulding County in northeast Ohio became the first in the state to pass its AEZ resolution. Van Wert County followed suit in August and in October Hardin County became the third designated AEZ.

Andrew McCoy, an assistant Clinton County prosecuting attorney who drafted the potential AEZ resolution, said a wind-farm project and subsequent AEZ designation in Van Wert was largely supported by the community, but it wasn’t without criticism. Both the Ohio Township Association and the Ohio School Boards Association spoke out against the resolution because they felt it might impact local property values, McCoy said.

Riley said recent criticism of the designation pushed the commissioners to hold a public meeting.

“If there’s anyone that’s opposed to [the resolution] we can have a discussion back and forth,” he said. “A civil discussion.”

The city manager of Greenfield, Betty Bishop, also spoke at Monday’s commission meeting about potential wind and solar projects in the area. Her city recently received a $56,000 grant from Green Energy Ohio to study the feasibilty of a wind-farm project on the corner of Lovers Lane and Martinsburg Road. The farm would generate electricity which the city could sell back to the Dayton Power and Light Company.

“We’d like to create some money to put some streets and gutters and sidewalks in Greenfield,” Bishop said. “Whatever it takes to get the economy going again.”