SPARTA, NJ – Sparta School District Superintendent Dennis Tobin addressed the issue of the previously proposed solar project at the July board of education meeting at Sparta High School on Monday, July 25. It was a summary of the district’s experience with the solar project to date.  He also explained the district’s concerns about the revised project. 

Tobin began his statement explaining it is not his intention to appear adversarial but he did want to clarify a number of issues as it relates to the solar project and the school district.  “I feel at times our school district has been misrepresented in the media regarding the project,” Tobin said.

Tobin then gave a timeline of the project as it pertains to Sparta schools:

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  • 2011-2012 school year -Initial discussion of the project
  • Sept 24, 2012 – Sparta Board of Education approved resolution to participate in the county solar project
  • Sparta Board of Education informed Sussex County officials from the beginning of the project that all work needed to be done during summer months, July and August, so education was not disrupted.
  • Project delayed - unrelated to any Sparta School District issues, project not completed according to original work schedule timelines.
  • February 4, 2013 – Sparta Board of Education approved an amendment to the Solar Project agreement: revisions include extension of project work schedule.
  • March 10, 2015 – Conducted a Solar Project meeting, requested by Sussex County officials.  Took place during March Board of Education Operations Committee meeting.  District officials and board members given an update by county officials and project representatives.  District officials and board members requested additional information regarding: revised project, roof system equipment, snow removal procedures, proposed revised timeline.  The revised project at this point included a significant number of additional roof units.
  • June 9, 2015 – Conducted a second Solar Project meeting with the Board of Education Operations Committee, requested by Sussex County official. County officials responded to previous requests for information.  District officials and board members asked for written report for review with district architect. 
  • June 18, 2015 – District receives written report requested on June 9.

District’s main concern regarding the revised project is that County and Project officials have indicated there are no procedures to remove snow from any of the three school buildings scheduled to have roof mounted solar panels. 

These concerns on the part of the district relate back to the winter of 2014 when the snow load on the roof at the Helen Morgan School causes a partial structural failure in February.  The school was closed to remove more than two feet of snow.  All other buildings in the districted had roof inspections at the same time.  The heavy snow caused similar headlines throughout the region and state; school roofs compromised, students moved or classes cancelled, average snow totals for the region 31.2 inches, average temperature 29.5 degrees. 

These conditions required the district to purchase special snow removal equipment and implement a new procedure when snow totals 18-22 inches.

Tobin said, “Further, the Sparta School District has not delayed this project and has cooperated regarding all requested meetings or communications.”

Tobin said the district had reached out to the county office on Monday morning to schedule a meeting at the earliest possible date to determine if a project can be developed that satisfies all of the concerns so the district can “feel comfortable with moving forward.”

No action was taken at the July meeting regarding the solar project.