GREENSBURG — The St. Helena Parish Police Jury has decided to delay further work on its jail solar installation until money to pay for the federal stimulus project arrives from the state Department of Natural Resources.
The project consists of solar panels used to charge backup batteries that supply emergency electrical power to the jail as well as a separate system that relies on the sun’s heat to provide hot water to the jail.
Jury Secretary Deborah Strickland reported during Tuesday’s meeting that after the jury spent $224,165 from general funds on the project, about $100,000 remains for parish operations.
“Nothing on the solar project has been reimbursed,” she said.
Project engineer Morgan Watson assured the jury that an initial $80,000 payment for the solar job would arrive within a few days.
The money is coming, but newly requested additional information — such as serial numbers from each of the 78 solar panels installed — is causing the delay, Watson explained.
Watson said he and project consultant Wade Byrd are working with the state to hurry along paperwork so all money spent to date is reimbursed to the parish.
Watson told jurors the hot water system portion of the solar project is completed and operating. Only a small amount of work remains on the electrical portion, he said.
The projected cost overrun of $40,546 involves electrical work. The parish is asking the state DNR for help in paying for the job.
Higher than budgeted material costs, along with increased installation time due to inexperienced workers are the reasons for the cost overrun, Watson said.
“The purpose of the money is to create jobs,” Bryd said. “Each one of you had someone on the job. They received job training” and will receive other work as a result of this project, he said.
The parish jail will wind up with a reserve system that provides three days of electrical power during emergencies, thus boosting security for deputies, Byrd said.
“After Katrina, deputies were in the jail with flashlights,” he added.
The state DNR approved two grants — for $141,000 and $72,000 — from federal stimulus money for promotion of green energy projects, Watson said outside of the meeting.