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March 14, 2013
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Solar panels too heavy for Summit Middle School roof

A potential need to change the location for solar panels at Summit Middle School was brought to the notice of the Summit School District Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday.

The proposed solar panels are part of a project approved by the board in November to partner with Syndicated Solar and the Summit County-based Innovative Energy to build solar panel arrays in several locations across the district. According to the original plan, solar panels at the middle school would be placed on the roof of the school and the adjacent facilities building.

However, in the midst of the engineering process, it was found that the building roofs in question were not structurally strong enough to support the weight of the proposed solar arrays. The company is now proposing that the solar array be placed on the ground, on the open space between the middle school and the facilities building. It is up to the board to decide whether or not to approve this change of location.

In the new location, the solar panels will be about 6 feet tall with an additional 2 feet added to keep the panels free from snow on the ground. There will be five rows of panels taking up an area of 143 feet by 179 feet. This array will deliver 103 kilowatts of solar energy in total.

"We don't have any plans to build anything there, it is just open space," said director of business services Mark Rydberg of the proposed location.

While the district can say yes or no to the proposed relocation, the difficulty lies in the fact that, according to the agreement, Syndicated Solar can decide to pull out of the project at any point up until the panels begin producing electricity, the deadline for which is late June.

"If the project gets scaled back, it might not be as attractive to the investors and they might not fund it," Rydberg said. "It does have potential to affect the other sites."

"We'd like for the plan to work out," said superintendent Heidi Pace, "but we have to make sure that that works, that it's environmentally sound, who is line of sight of it, what impact does that have, all of those things."

Because of the June deadline, the board needs to make a decision in order to keep construction on schedule. The issue will be discussed at the next board of education meeting on March 26. The meeting is open to the public.

At the work session before the meeting Tuesday, the board members interviewed two candidates to fill in the remaining empty board position. Boardmember Sheila Groneman retired in early February, leaving a position open.

The ideal board member, said board president Margaret Carlson, is "somebody who is an open-minded person and willing to look at problem solving from all directions. Somebody who is knowledge about the community and the school district and who can collaborate well within a group."

Summit County locals Cindy Bargell and Marilyn Taylor both applied for the position.

Cindy Bargell has lived in Summit County for 15 years and currently has two children enrolled in the middle school.

"There's nothing that matters more to me, at this point in my life, than education," Bargell said in her interview.

Marilyn Taylor has worked with the Summit School District in the past. Her three children graduated from the high school and now her grandchildren are also going through the system.

"I've looked at education from lots of different angles," Taylor said, who was most recently a professor at the University of Hawaii. "I'm a vested stakeholder in a personal and professional way."

The board decided to wait until the next meeting to make a final decision.

"We've got two outstanding candidates," Carlson said. "We wanted some time to give it some consideration because it is a tough decision. ... I think what we need to do in the next two weeks is really examine which of these two people will best round out the board that we have."

The chosen candidate will maintain their position on the board until November, when the term sentence finishes. At that point, the candidate will be able to choose whether or not to officially run for the position.


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The Summit Daily Updated Mar 14, 2013 12:33AM Published Mar 14, 2013 12:28AM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.