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The Albany City Council tonight will discuss what to do with a hydroelectric generator, and whether to provide funding for capital upgrades at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

Those two topics are expected to dominate the council's work session, which starts at 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 333 Broadalbin St. S.W.

The question of the hydroelectric plant is complex. It involves licensing, federal designations, and output potential for the plant, located at the Vine Street treatment station. Online since 2008, according to an engineering department report, the plant can only generate power about 68 percent of the time. This is because it cannot perform if the flow from the Calapooia river is too high, or if conditions along the Santiam-Albany canal are compromised, causing variations in flow rates.

The generator has created as little as $50,000 in annual revenue and at most $141,000. The average revenue generated over the past five years is $84,000.

Average expenses, according the report, are three times the annual revenue. For this reason, the project has been deemed "no longer sustainable." The council will consider how best to address the issue. Options include reclassifying the project in an attempt to reduce operating costs, or "exiting the hydropower business," according to language from the report.

In other business, the Council also will consider the city entering into an intergovernmental agreement with Linn County, which would entail both entities putting up $100,000 each to perform improvements at the Expo Center. These include, according to center director Randy Porter, building new horse stalls, enclosing the loading dock, painting the exterior, and installing a mechanical cooling system in the Santiam Building.

"There's a pretty big gamut of things we'd like to do," said Porter. "And this is a great deal. We've been working with the city on it for a couple of years now."

Councilor Ray Kopczynski said he will have to see all the details, but that "it sounds like it could be a win/win."

Contact reporter Neil Zawicki at 541-812-6099 or


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