Hawkins BOE OKs deal to move Surgoinsville Middle solar panels

Jeff Bobo • Jun 4, 2013 at 11:08 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The solar panels in front of Surgoinsville Middle School will soon be located behind the school as a result of an outcry from the community that they were an eyesore and a school security hindrance.

The Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday evening to pay $10,000 of the $25,000 cost of moving the panels to the rear of the school.

The remaining cost will be covered by the private investors who paid approximately $7 million to install electricity-generating solar panels at 20 Hawkins County school facilities.

Electricity will be sold back to the Tennessee Valley Authority

Among those investors is Brian Bednar, president of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Birdseye Renewable Energy, who met with the community last month to hear concerns about the panels.

Local residents and officials said the 7-foot high wall of solar panels, which stretch the length of a football field in front of the school, were ugly and created parking lot security problems.

Bednar later suggested that the county pay $12,000 that would be drawn from the school system’s solar panel revenue over a three-year period, starting at $5,000 the first year, $4,000 for the second year and $3,000 for the third year.

Board member Mike Williams suggested at a workshop session late last month that the school system pay its share up front to make the process simpler.

Williams then suggested the county school system’s share should be $10,000, and Bednar agreed.

Hawkins County Schools’ projected revenue from the 20 solar sites will be $875,000 over a 20-year period, or $43,750 annually for the school system.

No timeline was given for the move to be completed, although Bednar told the BOE during the workshop that it shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks.

In other business Tuesday the BOE:

•Approved a stricter electronic communication policy that prohibits email and text communications between teachers and students that don’t pertain to instructional or school related activities.

A separate policy also approved by the BOE on Tuesday echoes many of the appropriate use of social media guidelines from the previous policy. But the new policy also requires employees to allow school officials to view their private social networking websites, blog or Internet postings.

The new policy states employees’ public postings should remain “professional and appropriate for minor students’ viewing.”

Also added to the policy is a notation stating violations of the policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

•Agreed to schedule a special called meeting for Monday, June 17, at 6 p.m. to discuss approval of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget approval of salary scales for the 2013-14 school year.

•Denied by a vote of 2-5 a request by maintenance director Bill Shedden for purchase of a backhoe for $45,769 from Tri-County Power Equipment.

The BOE did, however, unanimously approve Shedden’s request for the purchase of a boom lift for $22,500 from East TN Rent All’s.

•Voted not to renew a custodial services contract for $66,900 at Church Hill Intermediate School for the 2013-14 school year from GCA Service Group. Shedden noted that the price had increased 4.5 percent and that quality of service had been unsatisfactory in recent months.

CHIS Principal Sherry Price told the BOE that since she and Shedden had a talk with GCA about service it had improved immensely, and she asked the board to renew the contract. However, the board was concerned with the cost increase and the possibility that service could wane again after the contract is renewed.

•Approved a contract with TruTech Wildlife and Animal Control for $8,164 to remove a bat infestation, seal the school, and provide needed cleanup at Bulls Gap School.

•Tabled the appointment of two non-faculty Church Hill Middle School basketball coaches so that the BOE can be provided proof that they have a clean background check. Board member Chris Christian said the board needs to make it a policy that no non-faculty coaches will be approved without the same background check that school employees undergo.

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