The Elizabethtown school board voted to proceed with plans to install a solar field on district land near Bear Creek School, but not before hearing concerns presented by Gerald Becker, chairman of the Mount Joy Township board of supervisors.
Becker said he was representing himself and not the township, where the solar field will be located near the Elizabethtown Fairgrounds and Route 283.
Becker told the school board at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, that he was under the impression that when Bear Creek School was completed, the area around the school “would be forever for animals, for kids to research nature and do things like that.”
He also questioned estimated costs savings for the 500-kilowatt field, to be installed by McClure Co. McClure estimated the cost to be approximately $870,000, with over $2 million saved over 20 years.
Doing his own calculations, based on his own electric bill, Becker figured that savings would amount to $1.6 million, not $2 million, and additional costs would include interest on borrowing $870,000; fees for management, maintenance and repairs; and the cost of tearing down the hazardous-material panels.
“I don’t see any more than a break-even situation for this solar array,” Becker said. Also, he wasn’t aware of any state or federal grants for the project, “which puts you in a deep hole.”
If instead, the board invested the $870,000, at the end of 20 years, at 5 percent, that would amount to $2.2 million, Becker said.
Board member Craig Hummer noted that the cost savings of the project is based more on managing peak loads rather than generating electricity. Business manager George Longridge noted that the electricity rates that residential customers pay are “substantially different” than what an institution like a school district would pay.
Also, Longridge said, the school district is limited in how it can invest funds, and that it would be lucky to get 1 percent, let alone 5 percent, on its investments. As far as maintenance costs, the consultant talked about that last week, Longridge said, but he will follow up on possible disposal costs.
The board also approved the list of bus drivers and bus routes, with Longridge reporting that further adjustments were made to ride times, with the process made better this year with the help of a software program. The problem with getting the 35 to 40 Bear Creek students to school on time was remedied, he said.
Also, Josh Peters, a parent who requested a different bus stop for his daughter at last week’s workshop meeting, thanked the board for allowing for the change. Peters said after the meeting that the bus stop will be at the Conoy Township park on Governor Stable Road, as he requested, rather than Turnpike or Keener roads.
The board also ratified the district’s application to appeal a property assessment. At the workshop meeting a week earlier, Longridge said this property was significantly under-assessed. According to the appeal form, under the board’s online documents, the Hoss’s property at 842 N. Hanover St. was reassessed at $1,109,100, but the fair market value is $1,561,800.