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Lakewood’s solar plans on hold

HEBRON – Lakewood School Board members haven’t completely given up plans to power most of the district with solar-generated electricity, but those plans are definitely on hold, said Superintendent Jay Gault. “The board decided to sit tight for a while,” he said, following a special Monday board meeting. “We’re at a standstill.”

Gault said board members spoke with representatives from Sabo Limbach, an energy services company that has worked with the district for years on programs to save energy. Gault said the district has cut ties with Tipping Point Energy, Inc. Last April, board members unanimously authorized Gault to enter into a 20- year Power Purchase Agreement with Tipping Point. Investors were to build a 1,000 kWe solar array coverng some six-seven acres of district property behind the intermediate school and south of the high school student parking lot.

Gault said the district secured a rate of 4.565 cents per kilowatthour until at least June 2013. “Nobody’s getting that rate. We just hit at the right time,” he said.

Gault would like to see results from other districts using solar power before committing Lakewood.

“I’m not completely sold they’re making money,” he said. “I haven’t seen enough proof that they are.”

“It just seemed like it wasn’t a good move at this point,” said board member Forrest Cooperrider. He said Tipping Point’s proposal seemed advantageous for the district, but it never materialized.

Tipping Point claimed the district would save about $650,000 over the 20-year contract.

Cooperrider said he also believes the outcome of the presidential election will affect energy. He said the assumption is if President Barack Obama is reelected, the federal government will push developing solar power wherever possible. If Republican challenger Mitt Romney wins, the government may push coal use. Either way, he doubts the board would make any decision regarding solar power until the end of the year, if then.

In other district news:

• The high school track may be resurfaced. Lakewood has hired Jobes Henderson and Associates of Newark to write specifications for bids and develop a cost estimate.

“The track is not usable,” said Arnie Ettenhofer, director of pupil services. “It’s not safe for us to have track meets. It’s fix the track or don’t have a program.” He said a new rubber composite surface for the track may cost roughly $70,000.

Ettenhofer said an ODNR grant helped pay for the current surface in 1999, but grants aren’t readily available anymore. The track should have been resurfaced more than five years ago and now requires extensive repairs. If the track is repaired, the funds would come from the district’s general fund, Gault said.

“The old track has outlasted its lifetime,” said Athletic Director Bo Hanson. He said the athletic boosters spent $5,000 two years ago to patch the track, which allowed the district to have two home meets, but those patches have worn away. Hanson said he doubted the resurfacing would require a new subsurface. He said Whitehall schools recently refurbished its track with a new surface and subsurface at roughly $200,000. Hanson said Lakewood’s new surface would be black with stripes, which is more cost effective than colored track surfaces.

“Our community is on that track all the time,” said Hanson, who added that a new surface could last eight to 12 years. “That’s my hope,” he said.

• High School Principal Larry Bevard said Blake Brothers Glass Company of Newark discovered that the windows in several high school rooms were installed upside down when the building was constructed roughly 12 years ago. Leaks due to the faulty installation have damaged the building. Blake Brothers are going to try a fix in one classroom, Bevard said.

“I’m not sure if it’ll fix the problem,” he said. Administrators want to see if the fix works before committing to major repairs. The leaks are getting worse and the windows have more problems than just being upside down. “All in all, it’s a mess,” said Bevard. If the repairs solve the leak, Bevard said the rest of the faulty windows would be repaired by the end of the year.

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