At the December 8 RTBOE meeting, Rockaway Township Advocate, Tucker Kelly rose to ask about submitted bids for the planned solar project. Basically he asked if the bids included all costs such as the $60,000 roof preparation. Well I only worked in construction management for a year or so but I do know each trade (Electrical, Roofing, etc.) submits their own bid. The Prime Contractor compiles total cost adding his/her own fee. It appears in this case, ARMM Associates is the prime contractor. So the correct answer would have been “no Mr. Kelly, everything is not included.”
Actual response was delayed until later in the meeting when Business Administrator, James Verbist sidestepped Kelly’s question about roof prep (and Armm Associates fee) saying “to the best of my knowledge” costs such as roof penetration to secure solar panels was included. James answers questions he wants to be asked but never the ones that were. And what’s this “to the best of my knowledge” crap? Bottom line, the winning bid was Barrier Electric Co., Inc. for $2.4 million but we should expect more.
Okay, we now have a multi million-dollar project. Does anyone know what we’re purchasing? I speculated 540 panels in my blog "The Solar Project Smell Test” but an unsure Verbist suggested we "pick a number" like 600. I’m sorry but wishy-washy answers from guys spending millions of our tax dollars…even if he does expect a good return is maddening.
And about that return. It’ll take 4063 SREC (marketable energy rights) sold at $640 over the next 5 years to yield $2.6 million…. and we have no idea whether it’s even possible or if the district will hire a broker or manage the sales in house (If there’s a God, it won’t be Verbist).
To be fair however, there will be energy savings. It was mentioned in a few meetings that the electric bill for, Stoney Brook and Copeland is about $240,000 per year. At the December 8 meeting, Mike Friedberger mentioned a 54% annual savings for those schools; about $130,000 per year or $650,000 for five years. It seems an almost total reliance on SREC sales so somebody better decide on a plan…quickly.
Finally, there’s still a question of weak accounting control. One employee controls both purchasing and cash disbursement. Past auditors have noted the issue but it was felt that mitigating the problem would be too costly. Besides the school board has to authorize expenditures. But that was before the district decided to incur debt without voter approval and the board blindly accepted everything the business administrator says.