The Ashland City Council could use $300,000 from a $636,275 court settlement to fund a community solar project. The council will review the issue during a meeting that starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.




In February, the council approved spending $305,000 on a new community solar project to be built on the roof of a city-owned building on North Mountain Avenue. The original plan was to ask residents to voluntarily invest in the project. Each of 363 solar panels would cost $825 and participants would get credits on their electricity bills for the power their panels generated. However, the payback would have been only $348 to $425 over 20 years on one panel &

or about half of the original investment.




If no one bought a panel, everyone's electric bill would have to rise 21 cents per month for a $100 bill to cover the project.




City staff members now are recommending that the city use part of the money that the Bonneville Power Administration is offering utilities &

after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2007 that BPA's division of benefits from federal hydropower was improper. The city of Ashland's settlement share would be $636,275 if the City Council accepts that amount.




The city will also probably receive a smaller payment later as BPA revises its rates. Under the city staff proposal, $300,000 would go for the community solar project and $336,275 would go into the city's General Fund.




Funding the solar project with settlement money would eliminate debt service and interest payments that otherwise would last for 16 years. The city would still try and sell panels to interested residents, with proceeds going either to the electric fund to keep electricity rates down or to finance a future renewable energy project, according to a staff memo to the council.




Money that would go into the General Fund would help offset losses that fund suffered after the city dampened rate increases for its customers in the wake of the 2001 West Coast electricity crisis. That crisis caused wholesale electricity rates to soar.




In other business Tuesday night, the council is scheduled to:




"&

162; decide whether to accept a gift of eight murals attorney and developer Lloyd Haines had installed on the underside of the Lithia Way bridge without city or Oregon Department of Transportation permission in 2007. He later had to remove the murals. Haines would have to secure city and ODOT permits and pay for the murals' reinstallation, maintenance and insurance.




"&

162; consider approving a $83,195 contract with Carollo Engineers to identify a solution for the city's sewage effluent, which is too warm to meet state standards for effluent that empties into creeks;




"&

162; hold a public hearing about the proposed formation of a local improvement district to improve the alley between Harrison and Morton Streets;




"&

162; decide which public art funding option to explore through a future public hearing;




"&

162; review the Traffic Safety Commission's recommendations to improve pedestrian safety on Siskiyou Boulevard and provide input for any additional measures and;




"&

162; consider giving final approval for rules affecting the Ashland Planning Commission.




For a complete list of agenda items and detailed information on each item, visit /Page.asp?NavID=10891.




Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.