Commission approves BOE solar panels; tables county panels

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By Peter Sawyer

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the county commission narrowly approved a Campbell County Board of Education project involving the installation of solar panels at three schools.

The commission might also have barely avoided a lawsuit, according to comments made by commissioner Rusty Orick and Campbell County Finance Director Jeff Marlow at last week’s budget and finance committee meeting.

At the budget and finance meeting last week, Orick asked Marlow what would happen if the BOE approved the project and the commission didn’t approve it. The BOE could have its attorney seek legal action against the commission, Marlow said.

The BOE unanimously approved the project at its Feb. 12 meeting.

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Orick made a motion to approve the BOE project. Commissioner Johnny Bruce seconded the motion.

Commissioner Tom Hatmaker voiced some concerns about the way business had been conducted regarding these projects.

“I’m not against the solar panels,” Hatmaker said later in the meeting. “I think the solar panels are going to work.”

Hatmaker talked about the difference in price between Efficient Energy of Tennessee, who the BOE approved entering a contract with, and Earth-Right, who offered to lease space rather than purchase and install solar panels. Had the school system taken Earth-Right’s offer, it could have saved $9,500 per school for the solar panel project, Hatmaker said.

“We as elected officials are responsible for spending the taxpayers’ money as efficiently as possible,” Hatmaker said. “I got elected to make good decisions for the county. I think Jeff should have taken proposals for this.”

The school board approved the project unanimously and took responsibility for it, Orick said.

“That’s their business,” Orick said. “They’re paying the freight.”

“The school board had all that information in front of them and chose to go ahead,” Commissioner Marie Ayers said. “This is what they chose.”

The motion squeaked by with eight yes votes. Commissioners Charles Baird, Beverly Hall, Hatmaker and Sue Nance voted against it. Commissioners Terry Singley and Wendell Bailey were absent.

County Solar Panels

The commission unanimously decided to delay taking action on a project involving the purchase and installation of solar panels on five county buildings.

“There’s a lot of speculation and conjecture (being thrown back and forth) as relates to these solar panels,” commissioner David Adkins said. “And frankly that’s exactly what it is.”

Adkins made a motion to table the county’s solar panel project in order to make a more informed decision later. Ayers seconded his motion.

“I think that’s the absolute best decision to make because there’s a lot of unknowns here,” Adkins said.

Adkins’ motion passed with 13 yes votes. Singley and Bailey were absent.