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McGUFFEY — For three years, the Upper Scioto Valley Board of Education and the residents of the district bought into a dream, Superintendent Dennis Recker said Monday night.
They shared a vision of USV being a state or national leader in the field of renewable energy. The dream included not only national recognition for the steps the district was taking in wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, but would save the district enough money over 15 years to renovate the campus. Money was borrowed with the anticipation it would be paid back in savings and the proposed wind farms located in the area would boost USV to new heights.
But the wind farms didn’t come as planned and the dream has turned into a financial nightmare for the district.
A grant from the Ohio Department of Education for the USV Wind Academy was not spent properly and the state is expecting $90,000 returned over the next two years. The board is trying to negotiate with the ODE on the grant, said Recker.
The principal and interest being paid on the green lab and field house equals a combined $125,000 per year, noted the superintendent. That is the equivalent of 1.5 mills from the general fund needed to pay back bond indebtedness.
“Usually the community votes on that,” said Recker.
A loans were secured through HB 264, which would allow schools to get money in advance for energy savings in the future. The money saved is not the $45,000 per year projected, but is closer to $3,000, said Recker.
“At that rate, our payback period is over 200 years,” he told the board. “These were dreams of this district. We expected financial gains with renewable energy sources. They were based on all things coming to fruition, but sadly, they are not and we are in the situation we are in now … No good came of it. We need to pull together as a district and move forward.”
“We have taken a loss on all those wonderful ideas,” said resident Dwight Comstock.
Without naming former Superinten-dent Rick Rolston or Assistant Superintendent James Bowser, Recker said a superintendent’s job is to share his vision for the district with the board.
“The board trusts me to make recommendations for what is best for the district,” said Recker. “The past board did that, too, and got stung in the process … Hindsight tells us these were not good decisions.”
The whole area, said Recker, was “ripe for renewable energy.”
“We went to Vegas and …. (we) put (our money) on black and it came up red,” said Recker.
But accountability for the things that happened at USV is not a closed issue, he continued.
“These things are not done by any means,” said Recker. “Things are going on at levels higher than this.”
In addition to the financial hit to the district, continued Recker, USV has taken a “bad rap” for its scholastic success. It ranks second behind Riverdale in county school ACT scores and has shown academic achievement in other areas. But that is not good enough, said Recker, and he assured the board he would be working to improve the district’s academics.
“This has been tough on us,” he said of past decisions. “Everybody is hurt and feeling bad. But this can draw us together. All these things that hurt like the devil now will go away and in the time I am here, we are going to make a difference. We’ve got to get past the drama.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer