The Public Building Authority is looking to move forward with bids to install solar panels on top of the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center. The center received a $44,000 grant from Bonnaroo Public Works earlier this year – if they do not use it soon, they run the risk of losing it as the next grant season begins.
General Manager Rebecca French presented two bids to the board; one was the recommended 60 kilowatt panels, while the other was not the recommended size, but offered a cheaper alternative that would help with cost saving measures. The 60kW panel cost nearly $99,000, while the lesser option was around $69,000. The panels have a 25-year warranty.
French proposed applying for a 10-year loan to cover the difference in cost before the center lost the grant. She estimates the loan could be paid off in about 5 years due to the savings from the panels. French also added that the center could put in matching money from the center’s depreciation account if that is how PBA wanted to move forward with it.
“If we’re going to do this project, we have to make this decision,” she said.
PBA member Greg Sandlin pushed for the more expensive option, as it is the recommended size for the conference center.
“This thing will pay for itself within 10 years if I am reading this correctly and we’re getting half off…it’s going to pay for itself in 10 years, that’s hard to baulk at,” he said.
“Getting what we don’t need isn’t the right path,” he added about the $69K option.
Money was the authority’s main concern. French blamed politics and the press for preventing a private investor from helping them cover the cost.
“We had a private investor that was going to give us $47,000 towards the project cost, so the $96,000 project would have cost the conference center $7,000 after our Bonnaroo grant and his investment. But when his company did the research on the conference center, they said that it was a great project, they believed in what we were doing, but they would not fund our project due to the political nature and the negative press surrounding our building. So they backed out on funding that.”
The PBA decided to push further discussion to their Nov. 8 meeting to allow French time to do more research on both sizes. The authority requested she find out how the size recommendation (60kW) was created, learn the exact kW on the lower bid and get estimates on how both sizes would affect savings.
The next PBA meeting is Thursday, Nov. 8 at 11:30 a.m. in the Coffee County Conference Center. The meeting is held in the executive boardroom.