It seemed like a good idea at the time: Use voter-approved Measure W bond money to purchase and install four wind turbines and four solar panels at Rim of the World High School to begin teaching students about clean energy and maybe open a path for them to future jobs.
But a variety of factors have impacted those plans, including Rim High School losing one of its top science teachers, John Arner, who in 2014 took a better paying job in Northern California. Without him, no curriculum was ever developed to use with the wind turbines and solar panels.
Then California’s Division of the State Architect (DSA) last year decided that it would not certify the four 20-foot steel support poles because the district lacked documentation about the welding that was done. The poles were manufactured in China.
The original cost in 2012 to purchase and install the four wind turbines at the high school, along with new solar panels placed next to them, was about $400,000.
School board trustees have been struggling over what to do with the poles and the wind turbines located next to Rim’s Performing Arts Center. The current district thinking is to replace the old poles with new ones manufactured in the U.S. that could be certified by the DSA.
To go that route would cost the district an additional $55,000. Whether to approve the initial expense for purchasing the new poles—roughly $17,000—was in front of trustees at the Feb. 18 meeting. Additional funding for removing the existing poles and installing new poles—roughly $38,000—would be considered at a future meeting.
Initially it looked as if trustees might approve spending the $17,000, with new trustee Ron Kelly sort of shrugging his shoulders and saying it needed to get done.
But other factors entered the debate, including comments from Lake Arrowhead general contractor Dave Bennett who said in his opinion the district shouldn’t be responsible, and shouldn’t spend any more money on the project. The responsibility to assure state certification should be that of the contractor originally used to install the poles and oversee the project, he said.
“You should be holding the contractor responsible,” Bennett told the board.
Late last year trustees asked the administration to ask the district’s legal counsel to see what responsibility, if any, either the district’s architect, PJHM Architects, or its construction management firm, Tilden-Coil Constructors, might have to pay for the new poles.
The district apparently never answered that question for trustees. Reportedly what surfaced was a potential conflict of interest between the district’s law firm and one or both vendors. That question was not answered on Feb. 18.
Neither was an answer given whether the district would retain another law firm to look into the question of potential liability.
In the end, trustee Dr. Leslie Bramson ask that the question of spending additional Measure W bond money to buy and install four new support poles be tabled for a future meeting. The board agreed, and will wait for answers as to whether Rim will be left holding the bag.
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