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Authority ineligible to apply for solar grant, but borough can

Published March 18. 2010 05:00PM

A cloud has temporarily blocked the solar project that the Summit Hill Water Authority Board has been pursuing when board members learned Wednesday afternoon the authority is not eligible to apply for the Sunshine Program grants as they are not a municipality. But the silver lining is the borough is able to make the application and administer the project.

"We cannot move any further until the council holds an emergency meeting to approve applying for the grant as a borough," said President John Michalik. "We need to apply for it by April otherwise we will be delayed until the next window which won't occur until June."

Michalik said the team meeting consisting of members of borough council, the authority and authority solicitor Joe Velitsky met for four hours earlier today with project consultants to discuss applying for the grant and planning the project. At the meeting, Michalik said the solicitor advised them to make sure the grant application can be made by the authority. After the meeting ended, Michalik received a phone call giving them the bad news that the project would need to be pursued by the borough.

Because the authority is not able to complete the application, Michalik said the borough would need to hold an emergency meeting to approve applying for the grant and approve the project. He relayed to the board the consultants said the chances of the project being successful are excellent simply because of the available funding and the near certainty of being approved for the grants.

Authority engineer Mike Tirpak mentioned that even though the authority is ineligible to apply for this grant, there may be other ones out there that could be pursued. He also mentioned that if the borough is unable to go through with the project, the authority may be able to reduce the size of it to make it easier to fund through alternative sources.

"If we can't find enough funding for the whole project and reduce its size to one that grants could cover, we can always expand it later," Tirpak said.

The solar project which the authority first discussed during a public hearing in November would entail installation of a one acre solar field which would generate enough electricity to supply power for the authority and possibly the municipal buildings. There was some subsequent discussion about possibly adding the public lighting to the project and expanding the acreage to two acres.

At this point, the project is at a temporary standstill until the authority learns whether the borough is able and willing to take the reins of the project and move it forward as the responsible party.

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