Why build it?

Replacing the worn-out steam boiler at Southern Oregon University has drawn the interest of many, including the editorial board of the Mail Tribune (see Our View, Sunday, Feb. 1). When one reviews the original proposal documents on the SOU website, some further questions come to mind.

The proposal showed that the worn-out boilers could be replaced with new, efficient gas-fired boilers for $2.1 million at an annual (average) cash flow cost of $330,000. This alternative would continue to use natural gas to heat the buildings on the SOU campus. This is the quickest, simplest, and least-costly alternative.

The cogeneration alternative being promoted by SOU calls for burning slash (waste wood) and natural gas in specialty boilers for a capital cost of $11.1 million at an annual average cash flow cost of $755,000. Some of the capital cost could be offset by grants and credits, but that is just another way to spend somebody's tax money; it's not "free money."

The extra capital and operating costs of the cogeneration option would be partly offset by having the proposed power plant generate extra electricity to be sold back to the grid. The project estimate shows net sales of electricity to be about $83,000 per year — not enough to offset the annual cost difference of $425,000 ($755,000 - $330,000).

Supporters of the cogeneration option laud the benefits of disposing of forest waste (slash) by burning it in the SOU power plant. That waste wood is somebody's problem, and that "somebody" should deal with it, but it's not SOU's. SOU exists to educate students, period.

Other factors associated with the cogeneration option are that it would generate more particulate (air contamination) than burning natural gas, and the most particulates would be produced during our months of air stagnation: November through February. Fueling the boilers with slash wood would require a flow of heavy diesel-burning trucks driving through already-congested city streets (Wightman). Thus, more air contamination in mid-winter.

Cogeneration costs more to build, costs more to operate, makes more air contamination and generates more traffic. Why do it?

Bruce Barnes, Ashland

Amazed by Rothschild

In his column Feb. 7, Herb Rothschild continues his war against Israel and Netanyahu. At the same time he paints a very positive picture of Iran, which plans to blow Israel off the face of the earth.

It's amazing to me that he can say such ugly things in the name of Peace House.

Maynard Telpner, Talent

Stop the rest stop


The Ashland City Council should suspend water and sewer rights for ODOT’s proposed rest stop/welcome center on the east side of Interstate 5 south of Crowson Road.

• There is a rest stop 27 miles south of Ashland , one in Talent, and one in Grants Pass; another is not needed.

• Our precious water should be reserved for Ashland citizens, not diverted to an unneeded rest stop.

• The project is costly and will suffer the same fate as others that have closed due to lack of funding.

• If not fully staffed by police it will turn into another hangout area, close to homes, that attracts vagrants and drugs.

• Maintenance of landscaping will divert irrigation water from TID recipients.

• Trucks come down the mountain too fast, with overheated brakes, which will create a hazard as slow moving vehicles enter and exit the rest area.

• Smart phones have made welcome centers outdated and studies show these centers are not productive unless they pull people off the interstates.

There will be a vote on this ill-conceived plan at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1175 E. Main St. Citizens must unite in opposition!

Liz Schmidt, Ashland