May 14, 2024 at 1:56 p.m.

Plans change for solar project

Work on Rose Gold is now slated to start in summer 2027


Plans have been adjusted to meet setbacks with a solar project coming to rural Dunkirk.

Jay County Commissioners approved an amendment Monday to the economic development agreement with Leeward Renewable Energy for Rose Gold Solar.

A 150-megawatt solar facility, Rose Gold Solar is planned for about 1,430 acres of land north of Dunkirk. Leeward Renewable Energy received approval from county officials in 2021 and 2022 for various legal requirements, including a tax abatement, road use agreement, decommissioning plan and economic development agreement. 

Plans originally called for the nearly $173 million project to begin construction in late 2022. Delays with PJM Interconnection — it’s the regional transmission organization that coordinates wholesale electricity movement across 13 states and the District of Columbia — Leeward Renewable Energy’s timeline has shifted.

The company is now estimated to start construction by June 30, 2027, with the work to be completed by the end of 2028. Jay County Council approved the timeline amendment at its meeting May 8.

Leeward will give $1.95 million to the county in economic development payments over a four-year period after the facility begins generating electricity. The project is expected to result in an additional $68.1 million in assessed value.

Commissioners also decided to apply the county’s health insurance refund to its employees premiums.

As part of the agreement with Physicians Health Plan, the county received a 40% refund — $42,884.99 — because employees’ claims so far this year have totaled less than their premiums. County auditor Emily Franks suggested the commissioners could keep the extra funding or pay it forward to employees. Crunching the numbers, Franks said the funding could be used to ensure that employees would not have to pay a premium on their health plan for four months or the funding could be used to reduce employees’ premium rates by 42% for the remainder of this year’s agreement.

Commissioners agreed to the rate reduction, which goes through the end of November. (The plan is annually renewed at that time.)

Also Monday, commissioners heard from Jay County Development Corporation board president Angela Paxson and executive director Travis Richards. Paxson confirmed the group had received commissioners’ list of points to consider regarding a contract for 2024 — JCDC met May 8 to discuss the topic — and noted the organization’s executive committee will review the requests and provide a recommendation to the board.

Commissioner president Chad Aker said they don’t expect all their requests to be approved and described the document as a part of the negotiation process.

“This is something that has gotten blown way out of proportion, and I think it’s time to bury the hatchet on this and both start working together,” he said.

Also, commissioners approved an agreement with LifeWorks Counseling and Wellness of Portland.

The business will offer anonymous counseling services to first responders working for the county as needed. Services are $140 for the initial intake session, with 50-minute sessions at $75 and 90-minute sessions at $125. Aker noted the local service costs less than the county’s previous provider, wellness company Mindbase.

Commissioners agreed to pay for the service out of their budget.

In other business, commissioners Brian McGalliard, Rex Journay and Aker:

•Tabled discussion on a contract with regional workforce development group Eastern Indiana Works for being a part of economic growth region 6, which would include Blackford, Delaware, Fayette, Henry, Randolph, Rush, Union and Wayne counties. County attorney Wes Schemenaur noted the contract could open up the county to a liability. Commissioners agreed to hold off on a decision until they could review a previous contract from the group.

•OK’d purchasing another Western Star truck from Stoops of Fort Wayne to be delivered in 2025. The vehicle priced at $134,510 with a five-year extended warranty and other additions matched the same price commissioners agreed to for a truck in April for Jay County Highway Department. A representative from Stoops noted plans to roll out a new engine in 2026 — Environmental Protection Agency is setting a new standard in 2027 for diesel emissions — and suggested commissioners either purchase one of the limited supplies of trucks before the change over or hold off purchasing a new truck for at least a year.

•Approved the following: an annual pass-through agreement with LifeStream Services totaling around $1.2 million for transportation services in East Central Indiana; to pay B&D $54,856 for repairs to the building currently being used to store salt at Jay County Highway Department; a $17,747.21 claim from Municipal Emergency Services for Jay County Sheriff’s Department; $7,844 from Skymax Containers for a new container at the highway department; an annual request of $5,000 in economic development income tax (EDIT) funds for Jay County 4th of July Committee; a $3,500 claim for Portland Rockets; a $3,250 contract and a $250 monthly fee with Bug Free Pest Control to treat Jay County Country Living (bed bugs were discovered in two residents’ rooms); and a $2,483.98 from Dell Marketing for laptops at the sheriff’s department.

•Discussed purchasing flooring for Jay County Country Living from Geneva resident John Hilty, with commissioners approving the purchase — it was originally $18,825 before a decision to upgrade the flooring type — pending insurance approval. The facility received a $43,320 reimbursable grant from the Indiana Residential Care Assistance Program and plans to do renovations with the dollars, which must be spent by June 30.

•Heard an update from John Hemmelgarn of Jay/Portland Building and Planning. Hemmelgarn noted 50 permits were issued between January and April, with three new home permits and six commercial use permits.

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