Stephens Co. BOE Still Considering Solar Panel Proposal

The Stephens County Board of Education is expected to make a decision at its meeting Tuesday about whether or not to place solar panels on property owned by the school system that is adjacent to Stephens County High School.

Last month, the Stephens County Board of Education voted 6-1 to allow School Superintendent Bryan Dorsey to continue talking with United Renewable Energy of Alpharetta about a lease agreement for the company to place solar panels on property owned by the school system that is adjacent to Stephens County High School.

The school board has previously rejected proposals from this company to place solar panels on the high school roof and on property adjacent to the parcel that is now being considered.

The school board discussed the matter at a work session on Thursday.

Dorsey said he has a new lease proposal from the company that has been reviewed by the school system’s attorneys, but he does not have a recommendation for the board either way at this time.

“I know timeliness is an issue for them,” said Dorsey. “I know they have certainly increased their offer. I am not trying sound discouraging or encouraging. It is just that I do not want the Board to be acting that I feel like I am saying that I know enough about this. I know that it had been an ongoing project prior to my arrival. I do not know all that you were presented with prior. I certainly would say without hesitation, I have been focused on finance and other issues.”

Stephens County Board of Education member Jim Ledford, who voted against the motion last month to negotiate, says the school system should not get into the leasing business in this manner.

He also said he has concerns that every time this company brings forward a new proposal, they always need an immediate decision.

Board of Education member David Fricks said he also has hesitations about entering into the lease agreement, especially considering the length of the lease proposed by the company.

“The other thing that really bothers me is it is 20 years with two options for five (years),” said Fricks. “We are going from 20 to 30 (years). We are talking about strapping a board (with this) after we are all gone.”

Meanwhile, Board of Education member Jeff Webb said he would like to look at the benefits of selling this property to the company as opposed to leasing it to them.

Dorsey said selling the property to U-R-E may not be plausible at this time because of the process that would be required and the time constraints that the company is looking at.

If the school system enters into the lease agreement, the school system would release lease payments from U-R-E and the solar panels would go on the tax digest, creating revenue in that manner.

However, the school system would not receive any power from the solar panels.

U-R-E would instead sell that power to Georgia Power as part of that company’s solar energy initiative.

This company already runs a similar solar panel farm on land owned by the Stephens County Development Authority on Turner Road.

The Stephens County Board of Education meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the administrative offices of the school system on Mize Road.