By CHRIS COLLINS
Randy Joseph didn't waste time worrying when he realized that a paperwork glitch might delay certification of a $1.7 million renewable energy project grant and possibly jeopardize his Lime Wind operation.
Instead of worrying, he set about seeking a solution.
As part of his problem-solving strategy, Joseph called Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and asked them to help expedite a review of his application by U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
The senators' intervention on his behalf led to success.
"It was such a simple mistake, but had it not been rectified it could have been a very serious problem," Joseph said.
He and his sons, Loran and Wade, built and maintain Lime Wind, which consists of six turbines that stand on a ridge about five miles north of Huntington. The turbines produce about 3 megawatts of electricity, which the Josephs are selling to Idaho Power Co.
Lime Wind is Baker County's first wind farm and the first in the state to be built on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
"March was a good wind month for us," Randy Joseph said. "April hasn't been so kind to us, but it averages out.
"This is probably one of the only locally owned and locally maintained projects that has been built," he said.
Joseph and his sons are continuing to learn more about the turbines, with the first scheduled maintenance work to be performed soon.
Randy and Loran Joseph also operate Joseph Millworks Inc., which manufactures custom doors and windows in Sumpter Valley.
The Josephs' financial problems arose from a misunderstanding with their accountants, Randy Joseph said. He thought the accountants had filed the necessary paperwork to secure the grant certification and the accountants thought he had taken care of the matter.
In fact, the paperwork had not been filed, leading to the possibility that the money would not be secured in time to meet the lender's requirements.
"It became a big problem in real short order .... when the construction lender said 'where is the money?' " Joseph said.
But thanks to the senators, the problem was averted.
"The senator (Wyden) did an awful lot for us," Joseph said, noting that acquiring the federal funding isn't easy.
"It's a complicated process to go through," he said, which includes filing for grants and tax credits to fund the $7 million project.
The $1.7 million renewable energy project grant will be used to pay down the $4,550,000 construction loan provided through the Florida firm, Seminole Financial Services.
Tom Towslee, Wyden's state communications director, said Tuesday that the senator was happy to be able to help Joseph with the paperwork issue.
"It's a good project," Towslee said of Lime Wind. "It's green energy and it's a jobs project.
"We're glad it worked out to his benefit," Towslee said. "Paperwork should not get in the way of a good project."
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner, Wyden explained that because Joseph's grant application was submitted late "the normal 60-day review and approval process would create serious financial difficulties for the company.
"An expedited review and approval could make a significant difference for Joseph Millworks and maintain investor funding," Wyden added.
And apparently, Geithner agreed to do as the senator asked.
"The Department of Treasury expedited certification and we were able to get the award in a couple of weeks versus a 10-week process," Joseph said.
He's grateful, and a bit surprised, that he was able to get such a quick response to his call for help, which he says is unprecedented in his experience.
"I just can't give my appreciation to Sen. Wyden enough," he said. "We had also contacted Sen. Merkley and his staff got involved."
Those who are cynical about government officials and government agencies should take heart from the senators' efforts on his behalf and the Treasury Department's response, he says.
"There are people who say government is slow and government doesn't work for you," Joseph said "For me, this has certainly shown the opposite of that."