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Morris school board talks Clean Line project

MORRIS – The Morris Community High School District 101 Board and administration renewed discussion Monday on what it would mean to the district if Rock Island Clean Line’s energy project came to Grundy County.

During its meeting Monday, the school board was given a copy of the term sheet approved last year between the district and Rock Island Clean Line LLC regarding the development of an electric converter station within the current boundaries of Grundy County.

“We’re not acting tonight on this matter,” Superintendent Pat Halloran told the board. “I think we should highlight a few things.”

The project is known as the Rock Island Clean Line Energy project, and it involves channeling 3,500 megawatts of wind energy from Iowa to Illinois through a series of above-ground transmission lines.

The electricity pipeline would begin in O’Brien County, Iowa, and span 500 miles, ending at a large converter station in Grundy County.

At the station, electricity would be converted from direct current into alternating current energy and then injected into the power grid. The energy would power homes throughout the Midwest and as far as the East Coast.

The term sheet was approved in February 2013, but as Clean Line works to secure further state approvals and has been in the news lately, Halloran thought it was important to go over the term sheet with the board again.

“I thought the deal was dead. I hadn’t heard about it in so long,” board member Judie Roth said.

Halloran told the board there has been a good amount of opposition from farmers, and it isn’t the school district’s place to pass judgment on either side, but board members need to remain aware of what will take place if the project gains approval.

He said the agreement stipulates that Clean Line will provide the high school with a one-time payment of $1.775 million, which would be made no later than 15 calendar days from the delivery of the first high voltage electric transformer to the construction site.

Halloran said the district would be abating 100 percent of the taxes for the one-time payment until 2032 when the enterprise ends; at that time it will receive 50 percent of the taxes on the property.

Roth said it’s hard to imagine what the district would look like in 2032.

“We currently receive $168 for that farmland on Cemetery Road, where the electric converter station would be placed,” Halloran said.

Halloran said it was important to note the funds generated from Clean Line could be used however the district needs to use them, unlike a tax increment finance district agreement where funds received only can be used for capital improvement.

“The terms also state that if construction goes beyond the current scope, we’d renegotiate,” Halloran said.

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