In 2015 NextEra Energy Canada constructed a wind farm known as the Jericho Wind Energy Project consisting of 92 wind turbines and a total nameplate capacity of 149 megawatts. The majority of this project took place in Lambton Shores with 83 turbines located within the borders of Lambton Shores.
As part of their community relations program, NextEra offers communities that host wind farms the opportunity to participate in a Community Vibrancy Fund that is set out in a formal agreement. At its March 24, 2015 meeting, Council agreed through a resolution that a Community Vibrancy Reserve Fund be created and that staff be directed to draft a policy for Council’s consideration to establish how the Community Vibrancy Reserve Fund is to be accessed and used.
The Community Vibrancy Fund is to enable projects that may not otherwise be possible without this funding, rather than to spend the funding to offset the costs of normal municipal obligations.
The annual payment to the Community Vibrancy Fund is calculated at $3,500.00 per rated megawatt for every turbine that operates for 60 days or more in a given year. The rated capacity of the Jericho project in Lambton Shores is 134.5 MW and the total potential maximum annual payment to the Community Vibrancy Fund is $470,750.00.
At last week’s regular meeting staff provided the report and asked council to consider the alternatives for funding distribution. The four options were Option One – Allocate all funds to Council approved and directed projects,
Option Two – Allocate funds between community and municipal projects, Option Three – Allocate all funds to community driven projects and Option Four – Spend no money. There is no requirement for the Municipality to spend the funds annually.
The current balance in the Vibrancy Fund is $49,695.63 based on the payment received for the end of 2014 after signing the agreement. The next payment for the term from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015 is payable to the Municipality by March 31, 2016. The exact amount to be received is yet unknown.
The agreement between Jericho Wind GP, ULC and Lambton Shores identifies seven permitted uses of the Vibrancy Funds. “Although by no means an exhaustive list, the following are examples of municipally-driven projects that could be considered under the identified Community Vibrancy Fund initiatives,” said staff.
1. Energy sustainability (i.e. Lambton Shores LED street lighting project)
2. Land stewardship (i.e. Tree planting and replacement programs)
3. Development and construction of Municipal recreation facilities (i.e.
Implementation of capital expenditure recommendations from the Recreation and
Leisure Services Master Plan or Community Improvement Plans)
4. Community and protective services (i.e. Purchase of new fire equipment as
identified in the capital asset management plan)
5. Roads and urban infrastructure (i.e. Road reconstruction, or waterfront trail
extensions and bridge over the cut)
6. Education and job training (i.e. Superhost staff development training)
7. Other projects as sanctioned by Council
Councilor Ronn Dodge suggested a committee through an application format be set up to look at the options that should be beneficial to all of Lambton Shores. That idea did not get seconded and councilor Gerry Rupke said since this municipality prides itself on organizations and volunteers that should be the direction they set forth.
Council was dealing with hypothetical as they don’t know how much money they are dealing with. Councilor Jeff Wilcox said people think this is millions they are talking about when in reality it is less than $50,000. “We may be splitting a small amount,” he said.
“I assume we won’t be spending anything until we have it,” said councilor Dan Sageman.
CAO Kevin Williams said the discussion was useful and if council was leading to one of the options staff could develop on that basis. He said with direction they could set a level for community expectations and build a policy around council’s decision. He added it would be six months before they had any real numbers.
Councilor Rick Goodhand suggested until they know the numbers perhaps they can use these monies like a Community Foundation with the interest used for community projects and the principle can go on forever. Option four is is for the Community Vibrancy Fund to be left to grow until a clearly defined project of a large scope becomes evident. There is no requirement for the Municipality to spend the funds annually.
Council agreed to look at option two with the inclusion of option four.