Education project raises hackles

Published 1:03 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A project intended to educate school children about renewable energy raised the hackles of one member of the Washington City Council on Monday because he said he read about it in the newspaper before it was presented to the council.

“We just stay out of the loop too often,” said Councilman Doug Mercer, after hearing about the project.

About $12,500 in unused funds from a Main Street Energy Fund Grant and a similar amount in private donations will pay to install a 30-foot tower near the N.C. Estuarium in downtown Washington that will help educate school children and others about the importance of wind and solar power, according to Bianca Gentile, grants coordinator for the city.

The device, known as a Sprout Renewable Energy Kiosk, will include solar panels, a wind turbine and a weather station, she said.

Preliminary approval to install the kiosk has been given by the Washington Harbor District Alliance and the Historic Preservation Commission.

Mercer asked why the project had been presented to the other two panels before coming to the attention of the council.

Gentile responded the city needed to move forward with the project quickly or risk losing the money to fund it.

In other business, the council:

  • Voted 4-1 to approve budget amendments reallocating funds between divisions within the city’s general fund, water fund, sewer fund, stormwater fund and electric fund, with Mercer casting the sole dissenting vote.
  • Voted 4-1 to award a $182,864.67 contract to Nova Lighting of Charlotte for labor and equipment for a lighting retrofit project at Impressions Marketing and up to six city-owned buildings, with Mercer casting the sole dissenting vote.
  • Unanimously approved a $134,985 contract with W.O. White LLC for exterior fire protection improvements at Impressions Marketing.
  • Voted unanimously to approve the following purchase orders: $32,717 to Atlantic Power Systems of North Carolina for preventive maintenance for peak-shaving generators; $87,277 to Asplundh Tree Expert Co. for tree-trimming contract services; $158,500 to Rivers & Associates for engineering services for the Main and Respess streets lift project and $205,506 to Miller Supply Co. for water meters.
  • Unanimously approved a one-hour parking zone on the south side of Second Street from Market Street to the first driveway into the parking lot across from the Beaufort County Courthouse.
  • Unanimously approved a $600,000 amendment to the city’s 2011-2012 budget that establishes a capital-projects fund for an upgrade of the lift station at the corner of Main and Respess streets.
  • Voted unanimously to use $44,205 in contingency funds for changes in design and easement acquisition for the city’s drainage project.
  • Voted unanimously to apply for a Talent Enhancement Grant from the Rural Development Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce for $50,000 to allow city staff to complete competitive Community Development Block Grants.
  • Unanimously approved an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant application by the city’s police department to upgrade the department’s evidence room.
  • Following a closed-door session, announced the terms of the resignation and release agreement it has entered with Stephanie Godley, a former administrative specialist with the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department. It was announced that the city paid or will pay Godley, in addition to wages from her last payroll period, considerations of various types totaling $4,591.33. In exchange, the city received, among other things, a full release of claims between Godley and the city. The city denies any liability to Godley, it was announced.
  • Made the following appointments: Jane Alligood to the Planning Board; Robert Henkel to the enlarged Planning Board; Jerry Creech and Ed Hodges to the Historic Preservation Commission; Florence Lodge, Ann Barbee Cherry and Susan Murrell to the Human Relations Council; Dee Congleton and Tucker Talley to the Animal Control Appeal Board; Don Wilkinson and Reid Brody to the Washington Electric Utilities Advisory Commission and Tom Payne to the Washington Housing Authority.
  • Unanimously approved a policy for writing off uncollectible accounts receivables.
  • Delayed action on a graffiti removal ordinance to allow City Attorney Franz Holscher to make recommendations about the ordinance.

All members attended the meeting.