ORR hits snag with solar project

Sep 12, 2019

The Old Rochester Regional District School Committee is considering a 20 year solar contract for the high school parking lot, but it hit a major snag: apparently it can’t sign a lease for that long.

“Under statue, a regional school district cannot lease for that period to a third party,” said Superintendent Doug White. 

The school’s attorney said the solution would involve special legislation from the state to be able to enter into a 20-year contract. 

White said he talked to Senator Marc Pacheco and the legislator would be willing to file the motion that the school needs. 

If the motion passes, which Pacheco said it likely would, as the state government supports solar efforts at schools, the three towns could either do nothing and have it approved, or vote down the project at Town Meetings within 60 days. 

White needed the school committee’s approval to have Pacheco take the initial steps. SunPower, the California-based company that is looking to install arrays over the high school parking lot, has offered to pay the $7,500 application fee. 

School committee member Heather Burke worried that allowing the company to pay the fee would be the same as committing to a contract with them. 

White said that it would not be, and the only commitment might be to paying part of that fee if the district does not eventually accept the contract. 

Jim Muse, another school committee member, pointed out that the terms of the contract have already been outlined, so the committee should not be surprised by anything in it. 

However, Burke countered by saying “It may be that we want to negotiate some aspect of [the contract] to our advantage.” As an example she pointed out that the parking lot is old and no funding is allocated to fix it. They may be able to have SunPower cover that as well. 

Another member, Joe Pires, asked about any potential health risks for the array. 

The district’s Director of Facilities, Eugene Jones, said he had done research and had not found any. 

In the end, the school committee authorized White to begin the legislative process with Pacheco.