Powell City Council on Jan. 17 unanimously agreed to spend $191,200 on municipal building improvements that will accompany the installation of solar panels.

Powell City Council on Jan. 17 unanimously agreed to spend $191,200 on municipal building improvements that will accompany the installation of solar panels.

The panels are part of an $821,861 federal energy-efficiency grant awarded to Powell by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Awards for Local Governments.

The bulk of the money is for a 77-kilowatt solar electric system that was to be installed on the roof of the municipal building. However, preliminary engineering on the project in 2011 found that the building's roof would not support the solar panels' weight.

City planner Eric Fischer developed an alternative plan to install the solar panels on steel structures constructed in Village Green Park and in the police parking lot near the municipal building.

The structures will be adapted to serve also as a park shelter and eight-vehicle carport.

Fischer is awaiting final approval of the installation changes from the Ohio Department of Development, the grant facilitator.

Fischer said he hopes the project will be installed and completed by Memorial Day.

The grant can pay only for the solar system and steel structures. Fischer approached city council for money to add details to the structures.

The shelter will have the appearance of a train depot and include eight to 10 picnic tables. It is estimated to cost an additional $144,250.

Police cruisers will use the carport. Each of the eight parking spaces will have an electrical outlet.

Council also agreed to cover a large electrical transformer with a three-sided building resembling a ticket booth. The building's roof will be removable. That improvement will cost about $21,450.

The grant also funded energy-saving upgrades including LED and light sensors that have been installed on city property, plus energy-efficient improvements added in Adventure Park.

Council member Sara Marie Brenner asked when the city would receive a return on its investment, which is the cost of the improvements plus in-kind contribution of staff time and wages and benefits, permit-fee waivers, related travel and expenses and architectural costs for the aesthetic improvements, all valued at about $170,000.

Fischer said it likely would take about three to four years.

The solar panels likely will generate about 90,000 kilowatts of electricity per year. The city building used about 459,000 kilowatts per year, prior to the energy-saving upgrades it received from the grant, which is estimated to save about 160,000-200,000 kilowatts per year.

Finance director Debra Miller said it would take a year or two after the entire project is completed before the savings will be known.

Fischer said the city also will receive about about 85 Renewable Energy Credits (REC) annually that it can sell on the commodities market. He told ThisWeek each REC would likely sell for about $300.

Because of the improvements, the city is eligible for rebate-like payments from American Electric Power. He said the city is likely to receive about $8,000 for the energy-saving upgrades alone.

Council also heard resident Kent Birmingham say he was offended by Twitter comments posted by council member Brenner.

"In the last week or so, a city of Powell restaurant was maligned by Sara Marie Brenner," Birmingham said, reading her tweet which suggested she would not patronize the restaurant in the future.

Brenner said her Twitter posts are her "personal pages" and Brimingham's comments are politically motivated.

Brimingham also has criticized Brenner in previous council sessions.

After about 10 minutes, Mayor Richard Cline stopped the exchange and said both had their say.