Quorum Court, SAUT explore solar options

Exploring another source of power while saving SAU Tech thousands of dollars was the subject of a presentation by Today’s Power, Inc. during the February meeting of the Ouachita County Quorum Court on Tuesday.

Chris Bell - Controller for TPI

Chris Bell - Controller for TPI

Ouachita County Judge Robert McAdoo and quorum court justices heard a presentation by Chris Bell of Today’s Power. He stated that his company and Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation are in talks with SAU Tech and the Bearden School District about the use of land owned by the school district.

The land would be used to house another solar farm, one similar to the facility in operation at Holly Springs.

OECC General Manager Mark Cayce also attended Tuesday’s meeting with Bell.

Bell also explained that the solar plant will be a single-axis tracker. This means the panels that have weather gauges on it so that it will efficiently shift to track the sun and give optimum access to solar power.

Bell said Bearden School District Superintendent Denny Rozenberg was contacted about the proposal because “the state law Act 9 requires us to go to the school and give them notice and let them know what we’re doing.”

Rozenberg was approached by TPI because the land where the company would like to place the solar array is close to Bearden, and the district’s superintendent would need to know of how this would affect taxes in that area.

Bell said Rozenberg was “fully supportive” of the idea.

Bell stated that the use of the solar farm would save SAU Tech from $90-$100,000.

He said TPI would like to go into a pilot agreement with the county and SAU Tech. There would be bonds that would be issued and TPI would use the bonds to “acquire the solar facility which will be around $2.2 million. Once the county owns it, it’s off of the tax roll.”

The lease agreement would be a 20-year, monthly lease. After that, Bell said TPI hopes SAU Tech would buy the “asset” and own it to continue to produce power for its campus.

McAdoo said during a meeting in January that he stated that the county and city have been approached by a solar company - Scenic Hill - about possibly funding and building a solar project. He said the only thing the county would have to do is find the land for the solar farm.

The judge stated during Tuesday’s meeting that he plans to attend the Camden City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at city hall, to hear the discussion about the plan that could be entered into by the city and the county.

McAdoo stated that justices of the quorum court should also plan on attending that city council meeting.

The group took the information under advisement and will discuss it in upcoming meetings.

The judge told the Camden News after the meeting that “if we agree to this pilot agreement, it will help our local university where they can save on utilities. They can put that money towards new program, recruitment, improving the programs that they have.

“The way I look at it is that: The money they save in utilities is money they can put into educating students.

“What I’m looking for in the county is that, as we go into a potential solar project with the city, the money that we save on our utility bills, we can do more street work, road work, bridge work and repairs.”

In new business during the meeting, an ordinance to amend 2018 calendar year’s budget was reviewed, and $336,223.20 was appropriated.

McAdoo stressed strongly that this appropriation did not mean that the county went over budget by that amount. He said that, once again, line-items transfers needed to be made to reflect the county’s budget correctly.

“Money was there, but line items needed to be put in correct places,” the judge stated.

Budget line item changes were approved unanimously by the court.

Also, a resolution was made to confirm the reappointment to the Ouachita County Medical Center’s board of directors of William R. Bass and Jerry Kendall through Dec. 1, 2021.

The reappointments were approved unanimously.

McAdoo also stated and pointed out a spot that can be seen on the ceiling in Courtroom A.

The water spot showed up after roof work was done at the courthouse, and the judge stated that the water damage is from the clock tower. Water underneath the tower settled in area of roof.

The judge said the spot is not due to poor installation or a poor quality of the roof, but from old deterioration of the clock structure.

The judge said Roofers will come back and fix it. $32,050 in repair.

Jennah Denney