St. Joseph County Council approves construction of solar farm
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A project to produce green energy in St. Joseph County finally got the green light from the county council.
After some four months of deliberation, the construction of a $165 million solar farm in Olive Township was approved by a unanimous vote.
There are a lot of economic benefits associated with the solar farm. “The farmland that’s going to be used, now we’re probably taking in about $80,000 a year in property tax dollars,” says Councilman Robert Kruszynski, Jr. “Now, we’ll be taking in a little more than $2 million a year.”
Kruszynski says members took their time in approving the project because they wanted the San Francisco-based developer to keep as many of the project benefits as possible, as local as possible. “We wanted to make sure that Lightsource BP is doing a project that’s not quite this size in southern Indiana, and there was some concerns about outside labor coming into the community, doing a lot of the work.”
“We currently have a project that’s being built in Indiana that does not utilize union labor,” said Lightsource BP Development Manager Darrin Jacobs. “So, it boils down to what the workforce is, and also what the community wants out of the project.”
What the county got out of the company was a commitment to use 75-percent local labor during construction. ‘Local’ is defined as residents of St. Joseph County and its adjacent counties. If the company’s labor needs can’t be met in the defined area, Lightsource can pull in workers within a 90-minute drive of the job site.
If, and only if that doesn’t work, the commuter cap could be raised to 120-minutes.
Lightsource also agreed to report on the workforce situation on a monthly basis.
“One good thing, it’s a local contractor that’s going to be the general contractor. Inovateus. They’re going to be a local, this is going to be one of the biggest solar projects they’ve ever done,” Kruszynski said.
“Like any industry, we’re worried about staffing the project so we certainly wanted to prioritize St. Joseph County, and the surrounding counties,” said Jacobs, “but we needed to have a little bit of flexibility to go outside that area.”
The construction is expected to create between 150 and 200 jobs. Jacobs says a majority of the work will likely be done by union labor.
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