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Lincoln council considers solar energy

City to seek proposals to see if project can save money on utility needs by Lynn Kutter | September 6, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

LINCOLN — Following the lead of Lincoln School District, city government is looking into the possibility of using solar power to provide most of its electrical needs.

The City Council gave the OK to request proposals from companies interested in installing and maintaining a solar project for Lincoln after a presentation by Michael Henderson, president of Today’s Power and executive vice president and chief financial officer with Arkansas Electric Cooperatives.

The School Board at its meeting Aug. 17 approved a solar power project estimated to save the school $48,000 the first year. Today’s Power was the only bidder on the School District’s project.

Mayor Doug Hutchens attended the School Board meeting and told council members he wanted them to hear about the project also.

“It sounded to me like it was a pretty good program,” Hutchens said at the Aug. 18 meeting.

Henderson gave a preliminary report on cost savings using solar energy based on the city’s utility costs for the 12-month period May 2019 to April 2020.

“I view this as an introduction meeting,” Henderson said. “Solar energy is not new but it’s new to a lot of people.”

Henderson said the city receives electrical power from both Ozarks Electric and Swepco. If the city had been using Today’s Power for the year, Lincoln would have saved 30% of its Ozarks’ bill and 16% of its Swepco bill, Henderson said.

Henderson’s presentation showed the average annual savings over a 25-year period would be $5,206 for Ozarks and $4,982 for Swepco.

Over 25 years, the savings cost would be more than $250,000.

Henderson advised the council to seek proposals from other companies but at the same time presented what Today’s Power would provide. He said Today’s Power would design a solar project to meet the city’s needs and maximize savings.

The company has installed 21 solar projects in four years, including projects for Arkadelphia, Brookland, Forrest City and Southern Arkansas University Tech.

Lincoln would have two options. It could provide land for the project and Today’s Power would lease the land from the city, or Today’s Power would purchase land. The company would install the solar panels and provide operations and maintenance under a 20-year contract.

The city would be required to purchase all solar energy generated by the project so Henderson said it’s important not to build a project that generates more energy than the city needs.

In addition, he pointed out there is a risk with solar power.

“You never know what the sun will do,” he said.

Henderson said Today’s Power is looking for 24-30 acres, preferably in the Lincoln area, for a solar project that would be used by several entities, including Lincoln, Springdale and Berryville school districts.

These would be tenants of the solar plant but each would have its own meter, Henderson said.

“We just have to find land someone is willing to sell us,” Henderson told council members. “For some reason, when you say ‘solar,’ they think it’s worth a whole lot more.”

The next step after receiving proposals from companies would be to select a company and then execute a contract, if the council decides to go forward.

“You can make a decision on what’s best for the city,” Henderson said.

In other business, the council authorized Hutch-ens to enter into a contract with Core & Main to buy 280 radio read water meters for $46,400. City Attorney Steve Zega had to read the ordinance for the meters in its entirety because the council didn’t have enough members present to suspend the rules and read the ordinance by title only.

Five council members attended the Aug. 18 meeting: Terry Bryson, Doyle Dixon, Troy Myers, Doug Moore and Johnny Stowers. Bobby Mc-Donald, Pam Christian and Gary Eoff were absent.

The council also voted to advertise for bids to sell a 2004 Sterling trash truck.

The agenda included a new partnership agreement with Lincoln Pound Pals for animal control but council members had a couple questions about the agreement. Changes were recommended and the revised agreement will go back to Lincoln Pound Pals for review.

In the agreement, the city will transport any dogs to the Washington County Animal Shelter, and Pound Pals agrees to pay $100 per dog to help with the county’s fee for taking in animals. The Pound Pals’ payment is due to the city within 30 days.

Hutchens reminded council members that the Pound Pays partnership is a “plus for us.”

Under new business, Hutchens said he will recommend the 2021 city budget include money for condemnation procedures on several properties in the city that are not habitable and have become a nuisance.

Zega said the council should come up with a plan and an objective criteria on which properties to consider for condemnation procedures.

Council member Terry Bryson, noting that 50% of the council would be new members in January 2021, said he would like for the council to consider a Code of Conduct for elected officials that would take effect in 2021. Only three incumbents are running for reelection in November.

Lynn Kutter may be reached by email at [email protected] .

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