A divided Kewaunee County Board on Tuesday decided to accept a settlement with a vendor that the state Public Service Commission said did an inadequate job on a feasibility study for a countywide system of anaerobic digesters to convert manure into natural gas.
The so-called Project Phoenix report was completed by Dynamic Concepts LLC after the PSC rejected the work done by Roach & Associates LLC. The PSC reimbursed the county for Dynamic’s $50,000 study but refused to honor the $25,000 bill submitted by Roach, which was revised to $28,000.
Roach sued the county to get paid, and county officials negotiated a $21,000 settlement.
“At the end of the day, I think this is a good resolution,” Corporation Counsel Jeff Wisnicky said. “It’s quite clear to me that he would not accept a penny less than this, so it’s not getting any better in terms of settlement. It’s either this or we are going to prepare for trial.”
Supervisor Kaye Shillin said the feasibility study was presented to the board as having no risk to the county.
“We were told at the start this would not cost the taxpayers any money,” Shillin said. “I asked that several times and was guaranteed that.”
County Board Chairman Robert Weidner said one of the lessons learned is never to present a contract as having no risk.
Supervisor John Pagel said the PSC changed its mind about Roach in mid-stream.
“Part of the reason this is happening is when Roach was doing the work, they reviewed his work, the PSC did, and they told him to keep going. So at that point they were satisfied with his work,” Pagel said. “The second time they reviewed his work is when they said, ‘He’s not doing it the way we want it, we are going to discontinue Roach and get somebody else.’”
Supervisor Chuck Wagner said with the uncertainties of litigation, the least costly alternative was to settle.
“As much as this disgusts me to use taxpayer money here to pay this bill, I agree that we need to get this behind us and pay it off,” Wagner said. “As bad a taste as that leaves in your mouth, sometimes you just have to do it.”
The vote to accept the settlement was 14-6, with Shillin joined by Supervisors Doug Doell, Scott Jahnke, Tom Romdenne, Linda Teske and Donna Thomas in dissenting.
Although the Dynamic Concepts study concluded a Kewaunee County digester network could potentially reduce the need for spreading manure over farmland by 50-60 percent, the PSC last week awarded a $15 million Focus on Energy grant to a consortium that plans to build a digester in southeastern Brown County. A bidder with plans for a Kewaunee County site did not score high enough to be considered.