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Public meeting to address issue of solar panels at Surgoinsville Middle School

Jeff Bobo • May 14, 2013 at 12:49 AM

SURGOINSVILLE — The public is invited to attend a meeting at Surgoinsville Middle School Wednesday after school to express opinions regarding the new solar panels that were installed earlier this year between Main Street and the school.

Members of the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen said Monday they have received an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the Surgoinsville Middle School solar panels.

Some see them as an eyesore.

Some see them as a safety issue because the front of the school is almost completely blocked from view on Main Street by a stretch of solar panels that stand about seven feet tall high and stretch the length of a football field.

Hawkins County Schools recently completed a project installing solar panels at 17 county school facilities.

There were three solar panel projects completed last year, for a total of 20 solar panel systems in the county school system selling electricity back to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Projected revenue from the 20 solar sites is $875,000 over a 20-year period, or $43,750 annually. One-time revenue of $1,000 per site will also be earned this year as part of a TVA incentive program, bringing the total revenue for the first year’s solar production to $63,750.

In some locations, the panels were installed on roofs. In other locations they were installed behind a school, such as at Surgoinsville Elementary.

In the case of Surgoinsville Middle, however, solar panels were installed along Main Street directly in front of the school.

Surgoinsville Mayor Johnny Greer said that the town has no authority over what the county school system does with its Surgoinsville properties.

Greer noted, however, that the town would never have allowed such a project to take place on private property within the town.

The BMA had considered approving a resolution asking the Board of Education to move the solar panels to the rear of the middle school.

Greer said that resolution is currently on hold in hopes that a separate effort to have the panels moved, which has culminated in Wednesday’s public meeting, will be successful. The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m.

“Some people are pretty upset about their placement,” Greer said. “But there’s a really nice place for them behind the school.”

Greer added, “I think this will be worked out. I don’t think anybody really meant for it to be like this. I’m confident that they’ll recognized that’s not the best place to put them.”

Aside from being an eyesore, some say that the solar panels present a security problem.

“When (Police Chief) Jeff (Hesoun) drives by, he can’t see who is sitting at the school,” said Alderman Bobby Jarnagin.

Alderman Larry Dykes added, “They’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in magnetic locks and safety devices at the schools, yet we’ve built an ideal cover for a sniper.”

Jarnigan said no one on the BMA is opposed to solar panels.

“It’s just the fact that it’s an eyesore,” he added.

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