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School board rejects energy proposal

WORTHINGTON -- On a 4-3 vote, the District 518 Board of Education passed up an opportunity to become involved in the wind energy business Tuesday night.

Johnson Controls, Inc., a Rochester-based company, proposed the development of a Community Based Energy Plan (CBEP) in cooperation with several other Minnesota school districts. The project would involve the selection of six to 10 districts linking together to produce between 10 to 15 megawatts of energy. Turbines could be "up and running" by 2009, with paybacks coming within the first 15 years of construction, said Johnson Controls representative Mike Pieper.

"What we're doing is we're absorbing all the pre-development costs with the idea that we believe it to be a viable project," Pieper told board members. "The whole project is structured to reduce the risk to the district."

But board members narrowly rejected the plan. Joel Lorenz, Joel Wiltrout, Linden Olson and Lori Dudley voted against the project. Steve Schnieder, Lowell Nystrom and Bob Jirele voted in favor.

Schnieder was the first board member to express optimism for the proposal.

"I think this is a project that is worthwhile, to move ahead to the next stage," he said, noting that voting to proceed with application for allocation of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds provides no risk for District 518 at this point. "This is the next step in the process to see if they can put it all together."

Lorenz quickly stated his disapproval, challenging the wisdom of educational institutions becoming involved in business enterprises.

"It's just the principle of the matter," Lorenz said.

Added Wiltrout, "We're in the business of educating. We're not in the business of selling energy. We certainly don't know anything about it."

Olson said that while he sees the benefits of wind energy, he is concerned that more risk may be involved than originally advertised. Johnson Controls has "no track record" of putting together a project of the type described, he said.

Nystrom declared, "I think the upside potential is there," to which Jirele added, "I think the potential and the upside far outweigh the risk."

But in the end, caution prevailed.

"We're not in the energy business, we're not in the investment business. We're in the education business," Lorenz said.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

- Approved non-renewal of probationary teaching contracts effective at the conclusion of the 2005-2006 school year for the following teachers: Jodi Smith, Patti Nelson, Kathy Schreiber, Dennis Kroll, Paula Sydow, Susan Sigdestad, Aaron Nett, Jennifer Clark, Jody Lorang, Mary Pavelko and Brittany Larson.

- Approved notice of proposed placement on unrequested leave of absence effective at the conclusion of the 2005-2006 school year for: Simoine Bolin, Lori Morrow, Brenda Hackbarth, Jennifer Elness, Joan Schafer, Dorothy Orde and Sue Salzwedel.

- Accepted a bid of $111,960 from Schwickert Company of Mankato for the Middle School re-roofing project.

- Accepted a bid of $67,094 from M.A.A.C. Inc. of Montevideo for the high school asbestos abatement project involving work in the cafeteria, kitchen and some smaller rooms.

- Accepted a bid of $64,870 from Davis Typewriter for student locker replacement at the Middle School.

- Accepted a bid of $6,831 from Carpet Plus to replace carpet at the Middle School as part of the locker replacement project.

- Heard from Superintendent John Landgaard that there are 18 applicants for the high school principal position to be vacated upon the retirement of Bruce Blatti effective at the end of the 2005-2006 school year.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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