Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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October 24, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     10/28/14

In this edition:

*Happy Halloween!
*Editorial Board Outrage
*Calling All Environmentalists!
*Did You Know?

*Happy Halloween!
         Halloween is Sunday the 31st. I have been amazed in recent years by the amount of effort (and money) that goes into decorating homes for the season. When I was young, few homes displayed anything other than carved pumpkins. Now, there are huge blow up characters, lights, and much more.

Regardless of how you view Halloween, we need to remember a few key things: First, be careful! One thing that has not changed is an abundance of young children in dark costumes excitedly crossing streets. Secondly, you may want to temporarily take down your campaign yard signs. Despite annual accusations to the contrary, I think most signs that disappear are teen pranks. Finally, have fun! Halloween offers all of us an opportunity to be young again.

If you have not voted yet, now is the time! Remember, Iowa law allows for Election Day registration! Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to vote between now and next Tuesday!

         And it is not enough that you vote yourself! You simply must convince someone else to get out and vote with you! Time to get to work!

*Editorial Board Outrage
         US Senate candidate Joni Ernst has raised the hackles of the Des Moines Register, Cedar Rapids Gazette, and Iowa City Press Citizen for refusing to meet with their Editorial Boards.

         First, let me be clear: I think Ernst should have met with all the Editorial Boards she chose to ignore. Further, I think it is entirely appropriate for the papers she ignored to factor that into their editorial decisions.

         But methinks the papers doth protest too much. The Register has done a pretty admirable job of trying to be Iowa’s statewide newspaper. I’m going to cut them some slack here.

         Gazette? You want to speak with Joni Ernst? Why don’t you first speak to the Linn County Board of Supervisors? Why don’t you first speak to the Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Center Point, Mount Vernon, Lisbon, Springville, Central City, and other City Councils? Why don’t you first speak to the CR, Linn Mar, Prairie, CPU, North Linn, Mount Vernon, Lisbon, Springville, Central City, and other school boards?

         And that is just Linn County. If you are going to pretend to cover Johnson County, I can double the list.

Joni Ernst ignored you. But I’ll bet any member of the Cedar Rapids City Council would be willing to share her/his thoughts on dozens of topics that REALLY MATTER to your readers. So quit pining for Joni Ernst, do the right thing, and cover something local. Put those Editorial Board energies into actual conversations with actual elected officials who actually impact the lives of your readers.

         Press Citizen? At least the Gazette is putting a half-hearted effort into covering a region. What is your excuse?

         Take my own example. I have been elected three times. I have spoken to the Press Citizen Editorial Board twice – once, for 30 minutes, with two fellow Supervisors; once, for twenty minutes, alone.

         The Press Citizen has published about 3700 issues during this time. I would have gladly accommodated them a few more times over the past decade. I’m sure all the various City Councilors, School Board Members, Iowa Legislators, etc. would have been happy to do the same.

         Yes, Joni Ernst should have met with you. And you are right to endorse Braley because of it. Now you should try talking to local elected officials. You might actually uncover something of interest to your readers.

         Johnson County recently did a Request for Proposals (RFP) to investigate the use of solar energy at our SEATS/Secondary Roads campus on Melrose Avenue just west of Highway 218.

         As you may recall, the Secondary Roads garage was badly damaged by fire last spring. In designing the new building, we made certain to include the ability to use alternative energy sources.

         It soon became clear that wind was not a viable option for that location, but that solar would be. Hence the RFP. We received 3 good proposals, from Anderson Electric of Sigourney, IA; Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque, IA; and Moxie Solar of North Liberty. Each company suggested doing things slightly differently, but came up with similar solutions.

         One thing that was clear from all the RFPs was that Johnson County would need to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA). Under this arrangement, the vendor actually produces the electricity, not the county. The power is then sold to the county under this PPA. The rates are set, and the agreement is in effect for ten years.

         There are several reasons for this odd arrangement, but the biggest is taxes. A private company can receive a hefty tax credit for using solar energy. Since Johnson County pays no taxes, there is no credit available. Still, we want to bring this savings to our taxpayers. So we will pursue the PPA. Aside benefit is that we know exactly how much our power will cost for the next ten years. And our rates are locked in, no matter what energy prices do.

         Again, any of the RFPs would have served us well. But after some discussion, Johnson County has chosen to enter into negotiations with Moxie Solar. The bottom line for me was pretty simple: 1.) Moxie provided the best return on investment, and 2.) Moxie is a local company.

         As for the numbers: a ten-year PPA with Moxie will save us about $309,000 over 25 years. (We would just be using our own energy the last 15 years, not buying through the PPA.) And that is just the cost savings! We also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and do not contribute to global warming. The impact is roughly the same as taking 275 cars off the road, or eliminating 16 single family homes.

         Solar energy is a very good thing. I’m very proud of Johnson County for pursuing it.

*Calling All Environmentalists!
         Note: This piece ran in Salvos on 9-16-14. To my knowledge, NO ONE has contacted the Board on this matter. No one! Environmentalists – this is important. Let me tell you – the fact that three Supervisors are not held to account here is EXTREMELY frustrating! I NEED YOUR HELP!

One of my proudest accomplishments as a Supervisor is the passage of a Sensitive Areas Ordinance. Under our existing ordinance, whenever streams, wetlands, slopes, woodlands, prairies, and other environmentally sensitive areas are identified, they have to be protected. It has worked very well, and we have protected several areas because of it.

         Unfortunately, the ordinance has a loophole. It only applies to subdivisions of more than three lots. So we are seeing an inordinate number of applications for 3 lot subdivisions. When asked, Glen Meisner from MMS Consultants simply stated that they were doing 3 lot subdivisions because they were cheaper for their clients.

         Needless to say, I’d like to close this loophole. I’d like to see every application go through the process. (I might consider an exception for two lot farmstead splits.)

         The problem is, we have voted on this and I lost. Supervisor Rettig joined me in trying to close the loophole; Supervisors Neuzil, Harney, and Etheredge voted to keep the loophole in place.

         We just had another three-lot subdivision in a critical piece of habitat off Sugar Bottom Road. We really need to fix this. And time is of the essence. But I need your help.

         Please contact the three Supervisors who refuse to amend our Sensitive Areas Ordinance. Show up at a Board Meeting. Write a letter to the Editor. Let them know you support a change! This is important!

         OK. You heard it twice now. Time to act!

*DID YOU KNOW?  Using current technologies, and by just putting arrays on roofs where they make sense, solar has the capability of providing 25% of the energy needs for the State of Iowa.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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