Board of education approves solar panels at three additional schools

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By The Staff

Three additional sides will see solar panels installed after the board unanimously agreed to the project.

The schools, Jellico High School, Jellico Elementary and Elk Valley Elementary School, weren’t originally included in the initial approval due to cost with Jellico Electric System. The utility company wanted $1,000 for each application for solar panels, but Robbie Thomas with Efficient Energy of Tennessee were able to get those panels at a cost low enough to offset the application fees.

In December, Thomas told the board they had approval from TVA to install solar panels at the other nine schools. 

 “From a cash flow perspective, it’s a no brainer for the school system,” said Campbell County Finance Director Jeff Marlow at that time.

Tuesday night, Marlow again explained the benefits to the board of education.

“We will get the money in the school budget, not the county?” asked board member Rector miller.

“Correct,” Marlow answered.

TVA will not write the board of education a check each month for the electricity produced with the panels, but will instead credit the value of the electricity off of the electric bill.

“We will have to continue to budget the same amount,” Marlow said. “That credit will be budgeted every year as a [deduction] from what would have been electricity.”

However, the county commission still has to vote on the matter.

If the Campbell County Commission fails to approve the board of education contract and budget amendment at its Tuesday meeting, it could face a lawsuit.

The installation of the solar panels at these schools will cost $373,500, Marlow said.

The BOE also voted for a budget amendment that allocates money from a bond issuance to pay for the installation of the solar panels. The BOE is taking full financial responsibility for the project, Marlow said. However, the commission must approve the budget amendment, he said.

If the commission doesn’t approve the resolution, it could face a lawsuit, Marlow said.

“If the BOE approves budget amendment 2-7 and the County Commission does not approve same(,) things could become interesting as the BOE would have the potential to bring suit against the County Commission to compel them to approve the budget amendment since the funds involved are being paid for by the BOE without asking the County Commission to provide any of the funding,” Marlow said in a Feb. 12 email.

Commissioner Rusty Orick brought the possibility of a lawsuit up at the budget and finance committee meeting on Feb. 11. He asked what would happen if the BOE approved the project to install solar panels at the three schools and the commission didn’t.

The BOE would be in the right to have its lawyer seek legal action, Marlow said.

“You don’t pass that, the BOE will turn around and sue the commission,” Orick said.

“They might have the right, but I doubt they’d do that,” Commissioner Sue Nance said.

Last month, the commission took a second look at its actions after voting down the funding source for a similar board of education project.