TALLMADGE — Businesses, non-profits and governmental entities in the city now have the opportunity to borrow money to pay for energy improvement projects and then repay the loan through a special assessment.

City Council gave approval to making the city a member of the Akron-Summit County Energy Special Improvement District (ESID) and to authorize a lighting improvement project at a county-owned pump station site at 1349 Newton St. in Tallmadge. The ESID is a mechanism which allows organizations to finance energy upgrade projects through special assessments.

Chris Burnham, president of the Development Finance Authority of Summit County, said his agency manages the Akron-Summit County ESID. An energy improvement project must occur somewhere in a city to allow for the ESID to be set up in that municipality, according to Burnham. In Tallmadge’s case, the Newton Street project establishes the ESID throughout the city.

Burnham said the DFA will loan $425 to the county for the entity to perform the improvements at the Newton Street site. He added that project should happen soon after the loan documents are finalized. The county will then repay the loan through a special assessment on the property, according to Burnham. The county is essentially paying additional property taxes to pay back the project loan.

Burnham noted with the ESID, "if a [Tallmadge] company wanted to take advantage of the district to finance [an energy project], it’s already set up. It’ll streamline the process."

He said companies and other organizations do not have to get the loan from DFA, but they do need to work through the ESID for their energy project.

"If an entity is paying something back through an assessment, then [the project] must be authorized by the [ESID] and the local community where the entity is located," said Burnham.

He explained that each community that joins the ESID has a "seat at the table" on the organization’s board.

The energy improvement project would have to meet certain requirements, according to Burnham. Examples of projects that would qualify would include installing new lighting, a new roof, a distribution center, and heating and air conditioning systems.

City Council member Dennis Loughry said establishing the ESID is "not going to cost us any money and it will give us something else to offer in the future."

About ESIDs

Burnham noted ESID’s first project was helping finance the energy improvements at Cascade Plaza in downtown Akron. He said officials were "stunned" at the "number of steps a private company would have to go through to set up a [energy special improvement] district, so we thought…what if we could set up the district first?"

Now, he said, the county is in the process of setting up the district in communities throughout the county.

"The county owns stuff all over the place," stated Burnham. "The county is the vehicle we’re using to be the petitioner to establish the district in every community where the county owns property."

In August 2017, Summit County Council passed legislation authorizing the county executive to enter a cooperative agreement with the DFA and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) to take steps to expand the Akron-Summit County ESID) throughout the rest of the county. Cuyahoga Falls recently became an ESID member, and other ESID members are Akron, Bath Township, Copley Township, Springfield Township, Coventry Township, Barberton and Fairlawn.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.