Commissioner Mark Marcoplos said he and members of OCS, including Orange County School Board Chairperson Will Atherton, have been discussing the plan for a Solar for Schools grant in recent weeks, but that there was no deal in place to approve funding immediately.
Marcoplos said OCS officials needed more information regarding the project along with answers to questions about its implementation before making a decision about whether or not to accept funding to implement it. He proposed the implementation of a two-week waiting period to allow for OCS to work out these issues and extended the same to CHCCS.
“Our commitment to them would be to provide answers to the questions that they still have so that they can make a timely decision,” Marcoplos said.
Commissioner Earl McKee opposed the idea of the two-week waiting period, citing that he did not want to antagonize the school boards during negotiations for grant money.
McKee said the county should be willing to work together with the school systems, stressing the need to continue discussions on potential projects without the added pressure of a deadline.
“I am absolutely not going to give an ultimatum to someone that’s supposed to be a partner and someone we’re supposed to be partnering with on everything we do,” McKee said.
Marcoplos and others denied this would be an ultimatum and said they had discussed this with OCS prior to Tuesday’s meeting. BOCC Chairperson Penny Rich also mentioned the short time frame proposed would allow for the school boards to make a more expeditious decision before the board voted 6-1 to approve the waiting period.
All of this reflects the county commissioners’ desire to use the money the county has collected for climate mitigation projects as soon as possible.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin said he believed it would be best to distribute the money collected by the climate tax for this year as soon as possible to prevent it from going unused.
He said he believed there are more options for climate mitigation projects apart from the Solar for Schools grants, so if the schools choose not to go forward with those, the county should allow them to put forward other climate mitigations and make those eligible to receive funding.
“I feel like we made a commitment, or I did when I spoke to voters when I supported the (tax) increase,” Dorosin said. “That we were going to push this money out quickly in recognition of the climate crisis. And I think that’s still reasonable.”
The board will discuss the possible implementation of the solar array projects with OCS and CHCCS in the coming weeks. In addition, the commissioners will be considering providing $30,000 in funding for a small hydropower feasibility study, in which the prospects for a hydroelectric generator in Lake Orange will be evaluated.
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