Wiscasset school committee

Solar power idea at WMHS meets verbal headwinds

School budget heads for first test with voters April 30
Fri, 04/12/2024 - 8:45am

    The energy firm auditing Wiscasset-owned properties for a potential contract told the school committee Tuesday night, April 9, a solar array at Wiscasset Middle High School would cost property taxpayers nothing to build, would save about $30,000 in energy costs in year one of a 20-year lease-purchase deal, and savings annually would rise 3% despite the panels’ degrading at seventh tenths’ of a percent. The representatives said they will later provide other numbers and will present a proposed project on all possible ways to save energy on town and school buildings.

    Most questions were from residents in the audience. Their concerns ranged from how China might benefit, to what to do with the array when its life runs out. One resident told the firm what it was describing sounded like a horrible idea. Other criticisms were that people would be supporting the project as federal taxpayers due to a federal credit the firm plans to seek, and Wiscasset could someday be dotted with fields of defunct arrays. 

    Johnson Controls representatives put the panels’ lifespan at about 30 years – a decade after the lease-purchase contract’s term. What Wiscasset does with the array after the contract is up, is whatever Wiscasset wants to do with it, the representatives said. They predicted Wiscasset will still want to use it and could replace panels rather than doing away with the array. 

    As for China, they said Johnson Controls plans to seek a federal tax credit by buying at least 40% American; and that the firm is not trying to support the Communist party in China.

    The representatives said the energy savings would cover each year’s debt and, if they don’t, Johnson Controls, by guarantee, will cut a check for the amount the savings are short. So the project is tax-neutral, they said. As the firm looks at possible solar sites to include, two have emerged: Behind the community center, and on a grass strip behind the WMHS tennis courts.

    Could it go anyplace different than that grass strip, committee member Desiree Bailey asked. The representatives said they did not pursue one other spot because a nature trail might be going there. Superintendent of Schools Kim Andersson said the roof could have been an option for the panels, if the firm would include a new roof in the project. The representatives explained, they would love to put on a new roof, but a roof does not yield the energy savings the firm bases its projects on.  

    The firm asked the school committee for no commitment that night. The firm expects to have a Wiscasset project proposal ready later this spring.

    Also April 9, the committee approved the warrant for the 6 p.m. April 30 school budget meeting at WMHS, where residents will vote on each cost center; the budget that results then faces a June 11 town vote, officials have said. The committee is proposing a $10,573,002 budget, up $251,473 from this year’s. Due to a 3.61% cut in state aid, the increase to local taxpayers would be 6.12%, Andersson has said. 

    The committee accepted Kristie Cossette’s resignation as an educational technician, named Samuel Giese assistant middle school baseball coach and nodded the WMHS seniors’ class trip to Boston – a destination their class advisor Debra Pooler said they missed out on as eighth graders due to the pandemic. Pooler said they had about $1,000 still to raise; two people donated at the meeting. April 10, Pooler said the class was still short. To donate, contact her at 207 882-7722 or dpooler@wiscassetschools.org