The Public Building Authority, which oversees the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center (MCCCC), decided to not install solar panels on the conference center roof at this time.
Bonnaroo gave the center a grant of $44,000 for the project and conference center general manager Rebecca French will be returning the money she received. The grant would pay for part of the project and the center would get a 10-year loan to pay for the remaining installation costs – anywhere between $25,000-$55K, depending on what panels were installed. The estimated wait period to see a positive financial return from the panels would 13 years, out of the panels’ 20-year lifespan.
“Thirteen years is a pretty long time to wait for a return,” said PBA member Zach Lowry. “We’re doing great this year, but we also have these deficiencies where we would like to do more in-kind investments for the schools and we would like to have the money to do so. $2,800 isn’t a lot for a yearly budget, but it is a lot to do a prom.”
“This problem would make sense in a 20-year plan, but I don’t know, maybe I should be thinking more of a 20-year plan, but right now I’m thinking a 5-10 year plan,” Lowry added. “The first thing before we make elected infrastructure improvements is to do what we’re doing already – stay within our budget and try to get back to where we were able to reach out and do more for the community.”
Claude Morse, the newest member to the PBA, who replaced Manchester’s seat and treasurer Richard Dix, agreed with Lowry.
“I want the conference center to succeed,” Morse said. “In the short term, there’s 2, 3, 5, years, I think we need to avoid any expenses out that don’t have payback in that period.”
He later added, “My concern is, are we spending money before we’re getting closer to breaking even? Even though it’s not a large amount, can we use that money in-kind to help the schools and some nonprofits?”
Chairman Stan Teal requested someone make a motion so the PBA and French can relay their decision to Bonnaroo representatives, Duck River Electric and TVA.
PBA member Dr. David Pate made a motion to move forward with the panels, which failed after not getting a second from the authority.
Conference center report
The conference center is continuing to operate under budget for the ninth month in a row. Though still in the red, the cost to the city and county is less than expected. In March, the project cost to the city and county was $17,747 and the actual bill sent to both entities was $12,145.
To date, the MCCCC requested $175,099 in this fiscal year.
According to the report, the center’s new administration fee covered $1,828.35 of $19,824.94, which is a fixed cost. This fee was enacted in January 2019 and applied to all new contracts.
“We’re confident that will be a new revenue generated for the conference center…that was a good move on part of the conference center,” Teal said.