Schools prevail in courts over solar project, some obstacles remain |

Schools prevail in courts over solar project, some obstacles remain

Teri Vance

The school district will move forward with its plans to build solar panels at five schools after a judge determined Thursday that it had met the bid requirements set forth in Nevada law.

“Judge Agosti decided (Richard) Stokes and the school district had done nothing improper,” said Mike Pavlakis, the attorney representing the Carson City School District. “Not only did she dissolve the writ issued Monday, but she refused to order any stopping of the work.”

A petition filed Monday by the Northern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council asserted that the district did not bid the project according to Nevada law and that it should be required to re-bid the nearly $11 million projects.

Justice Deborah Agosti filled in on the case in Carson District Court because Judge Jim Wilson is married to a member of the school board and Judge Todd Russell formerly served as counsel for the school district.

“We’re glad we can carry forward,” said Richard Stokes, superintendent of the Carson City School District. “We believe the program has great benefit to the public and certainly to the school district as we are able to garner savings as a result of the solar project.”

Although victorious in court, the school district still faces some obstacles.

Plans to build an array of solar panels on 60,000 square feet behind Seeliger Elementary School is being appealed to the Carson City Board of Supervisors.

Members will hear the appeal Thursday filed by neighbor Paul Eastwood after planning commissioners approved the school district’s special-use permit at a Dec. 1 meeting.

Eastwood said the construction would damage an environmentally sensitive area, destroy open space used by area children and argued there were better locations for the solar panels.

“The installation of an acre and a half, ground-mounted photovoltaic array will not blend seamlessly with this established area, nor will it create peaceful enjoyment in the neighborhood,” Eastwood wrote in his appeal. “Commissioner (William) Vance stated that sacrifices have to be made. My neighbors and I disagree with this statement because we are not willing to accept the burden of a decrease in our property value to accommodate this project when there are other acceptable sites.”

However, Mark Korinek, director of operations for the school district, said it is the best location.

“Our team has been working together for 10 months analyzing each school site and areas within those sites to determine the correct placement of arrays in respect to location, orientation to sun, space utilization, cost, neighborhood impact and overall effectiveness,” he wrote in his response.

He said the school also plans to build interpretive, natural habitat to enhance the area and disguise the array.

The structures at Seeliger are part of a districtwide project to construct 195,000 square feet of solar panels at five schools. The nearly

$11 million installation cost will be reduced to $975,000 after rebates from the power company, said Tony Turley, finance director for the Carson City School District.

He said a conservative estimate is that the school district would save $400,000 in energy costs annually.

In order to claim the rebate, however, the project must be completed by

July 20.

Commissioners also approved a special-use permit for a solar array of the same size at Eagle Valley Middle School, which also has been appealed.

The date to hear that appeal has not yet been set.

The project at Carson Middle School that also was approved for a special-use permit at the Dec. 1 meeting has not been appealed.

There are also plans for the photovoltaic structures at Carson High School and Fritsch Elementary School, however a special-use permit is not required for those.