WEST ROCKHILL — The township is moving closer to going solar.

Earlier this year, plans were outlined to install a solar system behind the township building on Ridge Road to provide electricity for the properties owned by the municipality. 

Of the four bids received from companies looking to install the system, the lowest, for about $169,000, was from Exact Solar, of Yardley, board Chairman Jim Miller said at the West Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors Oct. 21 meeting.

"Normally, I would put this up for a motion to accept it, but as they say on TV, wait, there's more," Miller said.

Two options are being offered, he said. One is to do the straight payment to purchase the solar system and the other is to have Exact Solar initially lease it to the township, he said.

"The decision is not gonna be who we choose. The decision is gonna be which way do we go," Miller said.

Under the lease proposal, West Rockhill would lease the system for seven years, during which it would not be billed for electricity, then would buy the system back for a payment based on market value, Miller and township solicitor Mary Eberle said.

"We're trying to determine what that market value would be so we know exactly what the payment would be at the end and to see what kind of savings this would be," Miller said.

The lease could potentially cost the township about $40,000 less than purchasing the system immediately, Eberle said.

The savings in the lease option come because Exact Solar could get federal tax credits not available to the municipality, she said.

The decision on whether to go with the full payment or lease agreement will be made at the board's Nov. 18 meeting, Miller said.

In answer to a question from a resident during the public comment period about how long it would take for the township to receive a payback on the cost of the solar system, Miller said he didn't have exact numbers yet, but it looks like it would take about 14 years for the straight purchase and 10 years with the lease. 

"Either one I think is well within our range when we're looking at a system that has a life expectancy we're told of about 40 years," he said.

In another matter at the meeting, Miller, who is also chairman of the West Rockhill-Sellersville Joint Recreation Authority which oversees the Holiday House pool, again raised the question of West Rockhill making an additional $19,000 payment to the pool, which was closed this year and needed the additional money to break even. Sellersville had previously agreed to make a similar additional payment. Each of the towns also previously contributed $15,000 to the pool this year.

Board member Jay Keyser said he supports the pool, but not the additional funding.

"That pool should be able to fund itself and make itself float," Keyser said.

He also said Miller had said last month he would not push forward the request for the West Rockhill payment without the board's unanimous agreement.

"This is a community asset and it's for the citizens of the township," board member David Collingwood said of the pool.

Community pools generally don't make money, Miller said.

"They lose money, but it's there as a service for the community," he said, "and I just feel that because we are so far behind because of Covid that we need to do this. Otherwise, the pool will just shut down."

He said he had been hoping for a unanimous vote by the board in favor of the payment, but was no longer doing so.

In a 2-1 vote, with Keyser dissenting, the board approved making the additional payment to the pool.  

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