PBL declines to move forward on solar-energy project

PAXTON — After months of discussion and negotiations, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board decided not to pursue a company’s proposal to put solar panels on PBL’s schools.

The approval of a contract with Novel Energy Solutions, based in West St. Paul, Minn., was listed on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting. Superintendent Cliff McClure, however, recommended the board not approve the contract, saying there simply was not enough time to fully evaluate the agreement first.

“Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just I think the timeline for getting the necessary information that we need is probably a little bit outside of my comfort zone and probably (school district attorney) Chris Miller’s, as well,” McClure told the board. “Hopefully, at some time and point we can do some type of green-energy project, but not at this time. That would be my recommendation.”

There was no further discussion on the issue by the board.

Last October, the school board entered into a “commitment of interest” for Novel Energy Solutions to put solar panels on PBL’s schools. Then in December, the board voted to authorize McClure to sign interconnection agreements with Ameren Illinois.

The three interconnection agreements did not commit the district to install the solar panels, but they were reportedly necessary in order for the proposed solar project to be entered into a state-run lottery that gives a limited number of solar-energy projects in Illinois a set price for the purchase of renewable-energy credits.

A Novel Energy Solutions representative said that in addition to signing the interconnection agreements, the company would require the district to also sign a contract with the firm before the project would be entered into the lottery. The contract was what was up for approval by the board Monday night.

Other business
In other business Monday:

➜ The board voted to hire Josh Blacker as junior high boys’ track coach.

➜ The board voted to grant maternity leave to Michelle Rolon, with an anticipated start date of March 7 and running through the end of the school year.

➜ The board voted to grant one-week paid leave to Ted Powers, whose wife is due to give birth March 16.

➜ The board voted to reassign Amy Swan to the position of elementary physical education teacher.

➜ The board voted to approve an agreement with the district’s cooks.

➜ The board voted to accept donations from the First Lutheran Church in Paxton and from the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus’ donation totaled $2,495 and will be used toward special-education programs.

➜ The board voted to approve policies recommended for approval by the district’s policy-review committee. Two policies that were not approved but are expected to be in upcoming months are related to “medication,” McClure said. Also, McClure said he gave to board members for their review a proposed “student behavioral threat assessment” policy that will be up for their approval at some point this year.

➜ The board reviewed an updated proposed school calendar for the 2019-20 school year, and McClure said he expects a final version of the calendar to be ready for the board’s approval in February. Feedback from the district’s teachers’ union showed most staff do not want classes to run into the second week of June “if possible,” McClure said. A proposed calendar presented last month showed classes starting after Labor Day and ending in the second week of June.

➜ McClure said an “extended school year” will be offered again this summer to students who qualify. McClure said he expects the district to also offer “credit recovery” courses this summer for students in need of catching up on their classwork in order to graduate on time.

➜ The board voted to place an amended version of the budget for the current fiscal year on public display and voted to schedule a public hearing regarding the amended budget for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, in the board room at the unit office in Paxton. The budget was amended, McClure said, to reflect increased revenue from Title I, Title II and Title IV funds.

➜ The board learned that the high school’s marching band would be taking another trip to New Orleans over spring break.

➜  The board heard an update on the progress of construction of a 63,400-square-foot addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School’s east side. Brian Mrozek, project manager for Chicago-based Gilbane Inc., the district’s construction-management firm, said roofing work continues on the two-story addition. Also, the pouring of concrete slabs continues, as does the installation of various equipment in the kitchen area. Among work to be completed in upcoming weeks is drywall, flooring and electrical.

➜ Mrozek said he would be soliciting technology bids for the new school addition over a three-week period this month, and the awarding of a contract would likely occur at the board’s February meeting.

➜ McClure invited board members to tour the new school addition at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 13 prior to the start of the board’s monthly meeting.

➜ The board voted to accept a $196,805 bid with an additional $20,000 for contingencies from NES, a Chicago-based union contractor, for the removal of asbestos from Clara Peterson Elementary School. NES provided the lowest bid among those received. The work is expected to occur from May through July.

➜ The board voted to seek bids from contractors for the removal of asbestos from PBL Eastlawn School and the demolition of that school, whose students will be moving into the new addition to Clara Peterson Elementary School next fall. A total of $1.05 million has been budgeted for that work.

➜ The board made plans to hold a building and grounds committee meeting at a date to be determined to discuss how to dispose of furniture and other items at PBL Eastlawn School prior to its demolition.

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