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PCC approves ordinance for net metering

By Staff, 09/22/20 9:46 AM

PRESCOTT – Customers of Prescott Water and Light can now install solar systems, should they choose and if they can afford to do so.

The Prescott City Council, at its September meeting Monday night, voted to approve rules for net metering, which would allow residents to set up solar systems for their homes and businesses.

Larry Jones, electrical operations manager for PW&L, told  the board this shouldn’t be viewed as a money-maker for the city, but a way to give residents a break on their utility bills while protecting the city.

City Attorney Glenn Vasser reminded the council the rules they voted on were the same ones discussed at council meetings the last two months with no changes. The key elements, he said, are safety, reliability and fairness. He added there will be some people who try to take advantage of it and the city will have to monitor it annually.

Prescott School Superintendent Robert Poole was on hand asking the council to support the measure, saying the district’s combined electric bill the last two months was $50,000 and that’s without students in the buildings. This, he said, will have a major impact on the district and allow it to better serve the students.

Poole reminded the council the state mandated teacher pay raises but didn’t provide the funding for them. He said this hurt the district and could result in the loss of staff, adding the district will  have a financial shortfall this year due to lost students.

The district, he continued, has been looking at installing solar power for a few years, only waiting for the city to come up with an ordinance to allow it. By going solar, he said, the district can save $90,000 a year on its electric bill.

Vasser called this a “grand experiment” for the state as communities across Arkansas are opting for solar power to help reduce utility bills. He said the rules set up are fair to both the city and customers, but could change in the future.

Jones chimed in saying there’s no rate differential between residential and commercial for net metering, but mixing residential and commercial together could create a problem for the business as the amount of power allowed is based on the lowest peak for billing. He suggested residential customers form groups as installing solar power can be cost prohibitive for individuals.

He reminded the council should the city’s rates ever go down, this will affect those on net metering.

The measure was approved.

In other business, Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, said bids for the TA road project came in way over budget. The low bid was $449,000 whereas the project was expected to cost $245,000.

The problem, she said, was with the soil sample. The initial plan called for 10-inches of concrete, but because of the soil, 13-inches will be required. The original job also called for paving 350-feet from Hwy. 371 down CR 30. AL Franks, the project engineer suggested doing a third of the project, or 125-feet at this time, and save money until the rest can be done. The council agreed, rejected all bids and will put the project up for bid again with the new requirements.

Godwin said the census figures for the county are 52.2  percent, with Prescott at 51.8 percent. However, she told the panel, these are the figures from those who self-reported and went through the EDO. Census workers, she continued, have been going door-to-door in the county working to collect information and don’t have the figures from their efforts yet.

When asked about the Potlatch roof  project, Godwin said the new roof has been installed and looks good. A representative from the Arkansas Department of Economic Development came and looked at it. Godwin added, city crews helped with the cleanup process.

She was asked if the building would be painted and replied it wouldn’t at this time as there are other projects at the site needing to be done first. She added two portable buildings were sold from the area.

The council approved a millage ordinance. This isn’t a new tax, but a rollover of the existing 5 mill the city has on the books.

Prescott Police Chief  Ann Jordan introduced the officers on staff to the council, saying they were a team. She pointed out Eric Fatheree is the new school resource officer and invited the panel to come by the PPD and talk about things.