Here's a draft of our Wednesday editorial.
Ada County, you’ve been had.
Remember what you were promised two years ago? Ada County commissioners gave Dynamis Energy $2 million to draw up plans for a gasification plant to turn garbage into green energy. The money, supposedly, was to cover design work.
But what you bought bears little resemblance to what you were sold. Cynthia Sewell’s article in the Statesman Sunday follows the dollars to this inescapable conclusion.
Public money, collected from county landfill fees, went to a host of add-ons, accessories and excesses:
• Dynamis spent $150,000 on a deposit for a turbine — an essential for power generation, of course, but unrelated to the task of drawing up designs.
• Dynamis spent $44,795.41 on computers and accessories — an investment more befitting a startup business than a company that likes to tout its experience on green energy projects elsewhere.
• Another $180,664.85 represented pure profit for Dynamis, a 10 percent project markup. In other words, the county invested your money speculatively, and the private entrepreneur got paid on the front end.
• And Dynamis’ employees weren’t slaving away in hopes of a big payday down the road. Engineers received $656,600 and were paid $270 to $350 an hour, above the going rate for contract work in the Treasure Valley.
When politicians criticize business subsidies, especially in the energy sector, they often say that government should not pick winners and losers. Current Commissioners Sharon Ullman and Rick Yzaguirre and former Commissioner Fred Tilman made a “winner” out of Dynamis. Thanks to the commissioners’ largesse, Dynamis minimized its own risk and even pocketed some profits in its so-called design phase.
And the loser?
It could be you.
Perhaps you remember another promise from the commissioners: Dynamis would need to pay back the $2 million and buy back its design before construction could begin. Construction hasn’t started, so the county is still out its money.
And it’s not even clear whether the county could collect its money if Dynamis doesn’t deliver. Potomac Energy Fund, a Dynamis creditor, has staked a claim to the beleaguered company’s assets.
Which would at least include, as we now know, some nice, high-end computers.
It never should have taken two years, and a public records request, for county residents to finally get an accounting of where their Dynamis dollars went. That’s unacceptable.
But when the records thoroughly disprove their sales pitch — and show that your money went for a whole lot more than design work — it’s no surprise the commissioners wanted to keep the facts under wraps.