Three days after approving a controversial contract with a company that wants to turn waste into energy, Delaware County commissioners rescinded their vote after learning the contract did not contain an auditor's certificate, as required by state law.

Three days after approving a controversial contract with a company that wants to turn waste into energy, Delaware County commissioners rescinded their vote after learning the contract did not contain an auditor's certificate, as required by state law.

According to the terms of the contract, the county was to pay $3.1-million to ST eGe Delaware, a Powell company, to conduct a feasibility study to determine if its patented system that turns septage (the waste product from septic systems) into methane gas -- and ultimately into electricity -- was a good deal for the county.

County auditor George Kaitsa said he could not sign the certificate because state law requires that the money tied to any contract be available and unencumbered, neither of which is the case with this contract.

The contract required the county to pay the $3.1-million to ST eGe before any work began on the study.

County prosecutor Dave Yost asked commissioner Todd Hanks to reconsider the contract after the June 22 meeting, citing concerns about the unsigned auditor's certificate and the lack of review from engineering experts, independent of those from ST eGe.

The contract that was reviewed by his office, Yost said at the June 22 meeting, was legally sound. But neither he nor his staff are engineering experts and could not determine the "profitability" of the proposed system or if it's right for Delaware County.

The proposal might make financial sense for the county, Yost said, but more needs to be known before he could endorse it.

Hanks and ST eGe officials contend the project could create up to 3,000 jobs and bring in non-tax revenue for the county of more than $100-million annually once it is operational.

He and other county officials immediately began looking at funding sources after the June 22 meeting, including federal grants.

Commission vice president Ken O'Brien voted against the contract, saying that while it might be a good deal for the county, there was no money to pay for the study. He agreed with Yost that the contract needed more review before the commission took action.

Several community members spoke at the commission meeting, sometimes in raised voices, asking the commissioners to walk away from the project.

They said $3.1-million was too much to spend for a "feasibility study" and questioned why they were rushing the contract to a vote.

"In hindsight, communication and execution could have been better as related to Monday's action," Hanks said at the June 25 meeting. "For this, I take full responsibility. I did this in the spirit of promoting a real economic turnaround for Delaware County and creating new jobs."

After the June 22 meeting, Powell attorney David Ison, who represents ST eGe, said he learned of Yost's concerns with the auditor's certificate and offered to amend the contract to give the commissioners until July 31 to find funding.

If they were unsuccessful, he said, the two parties would walk away from the project with no obligation on either side. Yost refused the offer, he said.

At the June 25 meeting, Hanks said he intends to continue to pursue "this interesting technology. I truly believe that this is a technology and public/private partnership worth pursuing."

He said he intends to have a new contract drafted "which is legal and enforceable" and will bring it back to the board.

Yost issued a prepared statement following that meeting.

"I applaud the courage and statesmanship of commissioner Todd Hanks in reconsidering Monday's resolution regarding the ST eGe LLC consultant contract," the statement read. "I look forward to working with commissioner Hanks and the entire board of commissioners to pursue this promising technology."

ST eGe officials also issued a statement:

"We believed that the county wished to plan to obtain all of the environmental benefits of cleaner air and water, thousands of well-paying jobs, and a long-term source of non-tax revenues that, conservatively, could have been more than one-hundred million dollars annually to the county general fund."

Neither Ison nor company principals Phil Kabealo or Jim Camp would comment further on the future of their dealings with Delaware County officials.

cpreston@thisweeknews.com