Berryville board approves solar power plan

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Berryville School District is going green — mostly.

The Berryville Board of Education on Feb. 22 voted unanimously to enter into a 20-year agreement with North Little Rock-based Today’s Power Inc., to provide solar power to district facilities.

“We’re really excited about that,” district superintendent Owen Powell said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been in planning and negotiating this for 2 1/2 to three years, so to finalize that contract and to be able to get moving forward with it is exciting.”

Owen Powell

Powell said the agreement will cost the district nothing but space for the solar panels, which are expected to produce up to 80 percent of the electric power used by the district.

“It’ll be produced right here on our campus,” Powell said. “It’ll be on the very far west end of our campus, which is over west of the elementary and intermediate schools and north and west of the baseball fields. So that whole area right there will be covered with solar panels and that will provide our district with our power.”

The addition of solar power is expected to reduce the cost of electric power for the district to 0.065 per kilowatt hour and will save the district close to $2 million over the course of the initial contract.

“It’s going to be a huge savings for us,” Powell said, adding that it will take approximately 12 months before the project gets up and running.

“We’re a year out,” Powell said. “Once we can start seeing something happening, the solar panels going in and everything, that’s when I think the community will probably start getting excited about it.”

Powell said the board put a lot of thought into making the decision regarding solar energy.

“Any time you sign a 20-year contract with somebody, you need to do your homework before you get into it,” Powell said. “And we’ve done a lot of work on it, and I feel really good about it. I think it’s going to be a really good thing for our district.”

Last week’s school board meeting was rescheduled from its originally scheduled date on Feb. 15 after back-to-back winter storms dropped more than 8 inches of snow across Carroll County and even more in other parts of the state.

Aside from missing a few days of school and having to reschedule the board meeting, Powell said Berryville’s schools weathered the storm in good condition, except for a few broken water pipes that will require the replacement of some flooring.

In other business, the board approved a $500 salary increase across the board for district staff, in addition to a sick-day transfer policy, which will allow district employees with unused sick days to transfer up to five to another employee.

“That’s a positive thing for our staff,” Powell said. “If an employee is out of sick days and in need of sick days, an employee with accumulated days can give that employee in need up to five of their sick days.”

A motion to approve the purchase of a new intercom system for the middle school was also approved by the board. Powell said the upgraded system, which will cost approximately $25,000, is definitely needed.

After meeting in executive session to discuss personnel matters, the board voted to approve a number of changes to staff.

The board accepted the resignations of middle school alternative education paraprofessional Heather Howard, cheer coach Ciera Woodruff; middle school ESL teacher Annamaria May-Gamboa and head football coach Doug Shott.

The board also voted to approve the hiring of Elizabeth Arwood to the high school cafeteria staff, Rebekah Parton to the intermediate cafeteria staff and Laura Hudgens as a long-term substitute.

In addition, all administrators’ contracts were renewed for the 2021-2022 school year.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, March 15, at the district administration building.

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