The Public Building Authority met on Thursday, Nov. 9 to discuss pending updates to the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center (MCCCC), including replacing the outdoor handrails, discussing the solar panels and vandalism to the outdoor venue.

The outdoor venue was broken into this past month, but nothing was stolen. MCCCC General Manager Rebecca French explained the venue was broken into, causing $1,000 worth of damage. The center fixed the damaged wood and made it sturdier for the future. The intruder has not been caught and nothing was stolen.

“We don’t know that someone broke into it to cause harm,” French said. She added that it was possible someone was just trying to find a warm place to spend the night.

The outdoor venue was built by a $50,000 grant from the state and had to raise matching funds $21,000. To raise money, the center is selling chairs for $67. The buyer’s name will be engraved on a small plaque that will be attached to the chairs they bought. So far, the center raised $13,000 through fundraising. There are still 160 chairs available to be sold.

When the outdoor venue ribbon cutting is held, all of the donors will be invited.

Solar panel update

The center received a $44,000 grant from Bonnaroo  Public Works earlier this year to install solar panels. The center runs the risk of losing the money and needing to return the $22,000 it’s received if they do not move forward with the project in the next few weeks. Waiting also runs the risk of pushing the center to the back of the waiting list for receiving panels, French explained.

“I think if we push it out more than the next four weeks, we’re going to be in the fall of 2019 before we have it installed,” she added.

Richard Dix of the PBA explained how the panels will work – they convert sunlight to direct current (DC), which will need to be converted to alternating current (AC) before the excess energy can be bought back by the Tennessee Valley Association (TVA).

The MCCCC panels will not have batteries, meaning they will not be able to store energy for future use.

Installing the 63.7 kilowatt per hour panels will not penetrate the roof of the building – they will sit on concrete blocks. The panels are guaranteed to last for 25-years.

Dix explained the power output will decrease in time to around 57kwh over the next 20 years.

In total, the panels will cost $98,000, not including maintenance fees or inspections.

“We are in the hole for four years, then it will pick up and little bit. After 20-something years, it will pay for all of our electricity,” Dix explained.

Until then, money is needed to fund the remainder of the project. French research a 5-year loan and is looking into what a 10-year loan will cost the center. She could get a 5-year loan at 3.73 percent interest, which would run about $600 per month in payments.

“The savings we have on the system would pay for the loan amount – it wouldn’t be out of budget,” French said.

The PBA cannot take loans that obligate other entities to pay for them – the loan amount would need to be approved by the operating entity before the loan is secured.

This sets back the solar panels until December, however. Because the conference center is a joint operation, but the city and county boards need to approve the loan. The county met on Tuesday, but Manchester’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen will not meet until Dec. 4.

Therefore, the PBA unanimously approved a motion to move forward with the loan concurrent of the city and county approving it.

The PBA needs the city’s response no later than Dec. 5 to move forward with the panels.

Adding handrails

The handrails in front of the building are in need of replacement.

“They’re loose, they’ve been repaired twice. Since they’re surface mounted, they’re breaking the concrete,” French explained. The rails are also not tall-enough to be ADA compliant.

Despite having a ramp, the center still sees people struggling to use the steps.

“We watch people struggle to get up the front steps and we’ve watch two older people fall…let’s look into making it getting into here a lot easier,” French said.

“Either way, we still have the repair what’s out there,” she added.

The center had three bids for the project. The PBA chose K&S Steel Fabrications out of Manchester, who was the lowest bid.

Former Coffee County Mayor David Pennington explained he’s worked with K&S before and was impressed with their work. With his endorsement, then PBA moved forward and voted to choose them to redo their handrails for $5,820.

News Editor

Casey recently joined the Manchester Times team in March 2018. Coming off a 17-month reporter stint in Port Chester, NY, she is looking forward to slowing down and integrating herself into the community. She currently resides in Manchester.

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