Break out the band for Clean Energy

Lordstown and McDonald schools should be rolling out the red carpet for Clean Energy Future of Manchester, Mass. There should be celebrations, keys to the districts, high school band performances and the works for Clean Energy and its president, William Siderewicz.

What Siderewicz and his company propose would be, in every way, a complete game-changer for one of these school districts.

Clean energy proposed an $800 million natural gas to electric power plant on Salt Springs Road in Lordstown. Dubbed the Lordstown Energy Center, the project would generate nearly $100 million in tax revenue over 40 years, mostly going to the schools.

Succumbing to protests from neighborhood residents who opposed the project’s required zone change, the Lordstown Planning Commission voted against the proposal.

Along came Weathersfield and Niles, who were waiting in the wings just in case something like this happened. “Based upon the decision by the village of Lordstown Planning Commission, we believe that we must now actively pursue this project,” Weathersfield Administrator Dave Rouan said. “We do not want to see this project leave Trumbull County.”

That would be disastrous. Trumbull County can ill-afford to send a message that we are unwillingly to accommodate major investment, large tax revenue and jobs.

Niles and Weathersfield have pitched two sites directly to Siderewicz. The one the two towns determined is the best is the vacant NRG power plant at the corner of McKees Lane and Belmont Street. The property is in the McDonald school system.

So if not Lordstown, McDonald is in line for more than $2 million a year for the next 40 years.

Talk about a game-changer.

Lordstown Schools has always been plagued by phantom revenue – state funding is based largely on what the GM Lordstown plant there would pay before abatements, not what it actually pays after abatements. McDonald Schools suffers from a lack of commercial or industrial development in a mostly middle-class community. School funding is a struggle in both places.

School leaders in Lordstown have a head start. They have already been working closely with the village and Clean Energy. But the planning commission’s decision opens the door for McDonald, which now should be chumming up to Weathersfield and Niles and wooing Clean Energy.