DUNKIRK — Solar is coming.

So are stormwater improvements.

Dunkirk Mayor Jack Robbins touched on those two issues Tuesday while also touting some of the growth his city has had in recent years during his State of the City Address at West Jay Community Center.

While Robbins said he didn’t have as much information yet as he’d like on the solar and wastewater issues, he noted that he believes they will both have a major impact on the city.

“It’s probably going to be two of the biggest things that have hit Dunkirk for years,” he said.

Leeward Renewable Energy Development has popped up recently in Jay County Recorder's Office deed reports for acquiring easements from landowners in Richland and Knox townships.

Robbins said Tuesday that Leeward, a renewable energy company based in Dallas, is planning a solar facility north of Dunkirk. The site falls within the city’s 2-mile buffer for regulations, and said he expects public meetings about the project to happen “very shortly.”

Leeward operates 22 renewable energy facilities in nine states, including the 30-megawatt Barilla Solar in Pecos County, Texas. It also has four wind farms in Illinois and two solar farms under development in Ohio.

Invenergy has already announced plans and signed initial agreements with the county for its Skycrest Solar facility on about 2,500 acres in Penn and Jackson Townships. NextEra Energy and Scout Clean Energy, both of which already operate wind farms in Jay County, have also expressed interest in solar developments.

Robbins spoke in favor of the developments.

“It’s going to be probably the revenue that the county needs,” he said. (Revenue comes in both the form of property taxes and economic development agreements.) “I think it’s going to be a good thing. I think it’s going to help us all out. I think it’s going to give the county what it needs to do an awful lot of things for all people in Jay County.”

Robbins also noted the city’s new stormwater fee that was passed earlier this year. The $10/month fee that will be assessed on property tax bills twice a year will initially go toward setting up the utility and to the regular stormwater operating costs. They will eventually start to accumulate in a non-reverting fund to be used to pay for stormwater upgrades in an effort to mitigate flooding. The city’s utility plan includes an estimated $2 million in needed improvements, including replacing storm sewers.

The mayor noted that the intent is to allow the fund to build up and then be able to pull back on the $10 monthly fee.

In addition to his speech, Robbins also asked each of the city’s department heads to provide updates. Dunkirk Police Chief Dane Mumbower noted his appointment of a full-time officer to deal with illegal narcotics operations and the department’s focus on pursuing dealing charges rather than possession. Mike Kreps of the street department reminded residents that five streets would be paved this year via a Community Crossings grant from Indiana Department of Transportation, and Dace Mumbower of the water department said that in addition to its already-updated water treatment plant the city is also in need of improvements in the form of new water lines. Tom Johnson, who oversees the city’s parks, reported that the park board is developing its next five-year plan and Dunkirk City Park will be getting a new walking trail and playground equipment.

Robbins also shined a light on recent and planned improvements coming to the city. He noted the opening of new businesses, including Glass Capital Grill, Sculpt Fitness and Cute as a Button over the last several years. He invited the community to visit the new Dunkirk Historical Society facility in the former Gaunt Jewelry building. And he addressed ongoing or planned projects, including the renovations of the Weaver Building and the former News and Sun building, remodeling of MJS Mortuaries and upgrades at Dunkirk Public Library.

“Things are moving in Dunkirk’s way,” said Robbins. “We’re going to try to keep it rolling.”
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