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  • Kent Casson

City action paves way for solar farm

The Cenergy proposed solar project site is shown at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

A solar farm was given the green light by members of the Chenoa City Council Tuesday evening.

The letter of intent regarding a solar farm on city property was approved during the council’s regular meeting at City Hall. Cenergy announced plans for the project on 18 acres located near county road 3200 North and Old Route 66 which is in front of the sewer plant. No exact construction timetable was given.

Cenergy CEO Bill Pham explained the company’s mission to benefit local communities working with them. Cenergy wants to spread renewable energy while helping local economies and municipalities.

“We think we can be that partner for your city,” said Pham.

Cenergy has projects in various locations, including the Indianapolis airport and as close as Pontiac in this area. Since its inception, the national commercial and small utility solar developer has engineered and constructed projects across 12 states.

“Once we build it, the power is sent to the grid,” added Pham.

Local subscribers can get a discount on their power bill. Community solar in Illinois is part of the state’s Adjustable Block Program. The program window opens Nov. 1 and city leaders voted to enroll in it as well.

The lease is $1500 per acre with a lease term of 20 years with two extension options for 10 years each. The company anticipates a $100,000 to $200,000 benefit to the city.

“We’ve done quite a few and it’s going to keep growing,” noted Pham.

If something goes wrong, Pham ensured the company does have the funding to remove the system and all of the modules are on steel posts.

“I think it’s great,” said finance and insurance commissioner Kyle Buchanan.

“I think it’s something we ought to consider,” replied streets commissioner Dwayne Price.

There is no up-front cost as Cenergy is just asking the city to sign-up. Mayor Chris Wilder said the property is currently in a crop share agreement.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to allow the mayor to sign an intergovernmental agreement between the McLean County Highway Department, McLean County Board and the city for jurisdictional transfer of Division Street within the city.

The highway department made a lump sum offer for the city to take over the road, plus American Rescue Plan Act funds are available. The county will mill down the road and asphalt it, starting at Route 24. They have agreed to take care of the labor cost of drainage work. Commissioner Buchanan proposed a $50,000 per year safety net allocation for maintenance.

A water main replacement bid was authorized from Opperman Construction at a price of almost $600,000, which was the low bid. This project would connect Route 24 and Division Street to Commercial Street with an eight-inch line. All of the fees would be covered from county money and ARPA funds.

“I’m ready to vote on it if you guys are,” stated Mayor Wilder.

An ordinance was approved amending the city code regarding water and wastewater customer deposits. It leaves the deposit of $100 and protects the city. The deposit must be held in an interest-bearing account and must be paid prior to getting water service turned on. The deposit can be reimbursed for closed accounts if there is not an unpaid balance.

Council members authorized a memorandum of understanding between the Illinois Council of Police and the City of Chenoa. Wilder noted the city is trying to keep up with other area communities to keep officers happy. Wages gradually increase through May 1, 2026. As of May 1, 2022 those on probation make $21.50 and $22.00 after probation. Those numbers jump to $24.00 and $27.00, respectively, by 2026.

Buchanan introduced grant writer Brandy Anderson to the council. She runs a company known as The Grant Lady LLC which started in 2020, but she started writing grants 20 years ago. She has written grants for the library in Toluca.

“Today I’ve only not gotten one (grant),” Anderson explained.

Anderson’s goal is to get a need list from the city to keep an eye out for possibilities. Some legwork is required in order to be competitive.

“My niche is to help small towns get funding.”

An EPA grant is open year-round and Chenoa could meet the qualifications.

During public comment, Nancy Todd of the Chenoa Revitalization Committee expressed appreciation to the community regarding the recent work at the city park.

“Overall, I think we can all agree the park has improved in the past 18 months,” Todd said.

Work has included restroom upgrades, new benches, picnic tables and playground equipment from an anonymous donor. The new pavilion has been insulated and pouring has started on a sidewalk path to connect Owsley Street to the restrooms. The Chenoa Revitalization Committee would like help from the city to connect the path to Division Street at the Methodist Church.

“The landscaping at the park is just beautiful right now,” added Todd.

A communication board will be installed at the park for children who have trouble communicating and a recognition board will honor all of those who helped with the project. Todd also asked for help from the city to complete the west side pavilion. They have found materials to patch holes in the pavilion.

Commissioner’s comments included Chad Daiker thanking employees and volunteers for the work getting done around the parks and Joe Moreland said the hydrant flushing was completed last Friday.

Wilder reminded the public of the 5-8 p.m. trick-or-treat hours in Chenoa for Halloween. A VFW weiner roast is planned under the water tower and the Shop-n-Go will have a costume contest under the pavilion.

In other matters Tuesday evening, the Chenoa City Council:

-Approved minutes from the regular Oct. 11 meeting and executive session minutes from Sept. 13 and Oct. 11.

-Authorized an ordinance abating the tax levied for 2022 to pay debt service on the general obligation bonds, series 2017, of the City of Chenoa, McLean County.

-Voted to place a clear well replacement out for bid.

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