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Board airs plan, plot and petroleum

District could ask for energy loan

FINN ROCK: A 2011 strategic plan developed for the McKenzie School District may be lying on a shelf but it continues to pop up during public comment sessions during board meetings. Nimrod resident Connie Huff questioned its status last Wednesday saying she was, “Curious to see if, when this was presented to the board, if any of the plans that were suggested where ever discussed or talked about – ever started, neglected or what?” Board chairman Kent Roberts responded that the district had, “Most definitely studied it and considered it. If memory serves, it was somewhat of a student project from the UO,” adding that, “A very limited number of people were polled and put into this plan.” Board member Kathy Keable said she had, “Tried to get the project off the ground,” but felt it was more of a class assignment. “I think the students did a fairly good jib trying to get it off the ground but they had a limited time to make a proposal to us.” Huff responded by saying, “They gave us very specific things as suggestions to do,” adding that, “There was a checklist for each of their suggestions. I’m thinking maybe we need to reexamine it.” “Part of the reason I’m interested is that there are several words in here that are really strong, like ‘crisis’ and ‘priority,’” Huff said. She suggested the district use the plan to, “Establish rapport with parents in the community who may not be able to come to meetings or maybe don’t feel comfortable in this setting. I really feel they had some very good pointers and a format for working together – the board, the community and the people who work in the school.” The board also heard from reports from Fred Dutli regarding a school owned property and the status of the district’s heating systems. The property is a piece of steep ground adjacent to the Blue River Park donated to the district decades ago by Fred Behm. Dutli noted the donation was made with a provision that called for income generated on the land be used for the student scholarship fund. “We did have some blow down up there in 1990 that we logged,” he recalled, adding that, “Since then the land has just been sitting there.” Because of insurance costs, Dutli said the land had become a drain and he’d been asked to look into the possibility of selling it. Any future logging, he felt was unlikely due to the difficulty of working on the steep slopes, soils that weren’t conducive, and a nearby Class I stream as well as the visual impacts from the highway. Dutli reported he’d talked with the McKenzie River Trust to see if they might be interested in acquiring the property. “They are interested,” he said, but cautioned that the process could take, from one to three years before they would know if they would be able to purchase it.” He also noted the land’s current assessed value was about $64,000 but didn’t know its appraised value. Following his report the board authorized Dutli to invite a representative of the trust to make a presentation at a future meeting. The diesel fueled heating system the school uses is due for a replacement and Dutli said he’d been exploring ways that might happen. Although he said he’d given up trying to find, “Someone to pay for the whole thing,” he did have encouraging news regarding an energy audit. Dutli said the Lane Electric Coop is willing to pay for the audit but cautioned that, “At the end of the audit the board would have to make a decision whether or not to take out a loan to get the work done.” Other districts, according to Dutli had done energy upgrades with mixed results. Some, he said, had found that a payback period they’d been advised would run for seven years had been extended to a dozen, while others reported they’d, “Done real well. I would like to be able to assure Lane Electric that we are serious in what we’re doing – not to have them spend much money if at the end we don’t take out a loan.” Dutli also said he’d been discussing the matter with the state Dept. of Energy, where officials were confident it would meet their loan standards. He also said there was a possibility, but not a guarantee that a low interest loan might be available. If approved, Dutli said an energy audit could be done immediately, followed by the installation of heat pumps next summer.


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