MCSD eyes solar power, skate park


Jack Durham
Mad River Union

MCKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Community Services District may install solar panels at its sewer plant, main office and on recreation buildings at Pierson Park, possibly generating enough electricity to power all of its facilities.

The ambitious proposal – along with the resurrection of a plan to build a skate park in town – was discussed during the Nov. 2 meeting of the district’s Board of Directors.

The Mack Town board reviewed a draft of the district’s Strategic Plan, which includes numerous projects, including completion of the sewer plant upgrade that’s now underway, an upgrade of sewer mains and the installation of solar panels at various district facilities.

The board had initially decided to pursue a solar project at the wastewater treatment plant on the west side of town off Hiller Road. That project, however, has been delayed due to construction of a new multi-million-dollar mechanical sewer treatment system, which will help the district stay in compliance with state discharge standards and avoid fines.

Since its initial foray into the solar proposal, the district’s idea has blossomed into a much larger project, which could include panels at the sewer  plant, Pierson Park and at the district’s main office on Sutter Road.

District Manager Greg Orsini told the board that the cost of buying solar panels has gone down, particularly for larger systems, which is creating an advantageous situation for the district.

“We’re in a sweet spot right now,” Orsini said.

The district has also applied for a grant to help pay for  some of the solar panels. Director Dennis Mayo said he is confident that the grant application will be successful.

Board President George Wheeler said he wants the district to get a solar project up and running as soon as possible, and didn’t want to wait too long to see progress.

“We’ve been talking about this for years,” Wheeler said. “Let’s do a small project and get some real numbers.”

Orsini responded that district management is actively working on the solar proposals, but there are other, higher-priority projects in the works, with the main one being the sewer plant upgrade.

“One thing I really need to reiterate ... we’re busy right now,” Orsini told the board. “I don’t want to make any rash decisions just for the sake of getting solar panels on a roof somewhere. Incrementally, we’re working towards getting proposals before the board.”

Wheeler said he wanted to see some actual numbers on how much the projects would cost, how much power they would generate and how much revenue they would produce or save.

Mayo praised management for its work on the solar projects. “I think they’re doing a yeoman’s job and I think they’re on the right path,” he said.

“What I’m saying is that I’d like to see some actual numbers,” Wheeler responded.

Mayo, who sounded irritated, said to Wheeler “Sometimes there’s a time to stop talking ... [Orsini has] said he’s already going to do that.”

“You’re beating it to death. It’s coming,” Mayo said to Wheeler. “Quit berating them about something they already said they were going to do.”

Wheeler called for a halt to the discussion. “We’re going to stop this Dennis, because I’m not berating anybody. I’m having a discussion about what I would like to see happen.”

Director John Corbett warned the board that it’s pursuing numerous projects and at it may be “rough sailing” for the next couple years. The board, he said, is going to have to restrain itself.

“I’m encouraged that the board realizes the sheer volume of work here in the district,” Orsini said. “I’d hate to start dropping balls, because we have a lot of them up in the air now.”

Orsini said he’ll be returning to the board at a future meeting with more details about the solar projects.

Skate park

While the board was discussing the growing number of district projects, along came another one – the construction of the skate park at Pierson Park.

Charlie Caldwell of the Humboldt Skate Park Collective said his organization will soon deliver a detailed plan to the district for the construction of a skate park at Pierson Park. The district is already drafting a right-of-entry agreement, a document that would commit district property to the skate par and that spells out the conditions of the arrangement.

The nonprofit McKinleyville Skate Park Committee, which is now part of the collective, has been working on and off to create a skate park in town since 1997.

The organization originally proposed a roughly $500,000 skate facility to be constructed at Pierson Park behind the McKinleyville Fire Station. The group, however, had only raised about $30,000 by 2012, which spurred the district to water down its right-of-entry agreement with the committee.

Rather than agreeing to provide a specific piece of property at Pierson Park, the district said it would provide land somewhere in town, without indicating a specific spot. The district did so to free up Pierson Park for other potential projects, some of which never came to fruition. When this happened, members of the committee were angered at the district and vowed to build the park elsewhere.

Now they’re back, and if last week’s meeting is any indication, there are no sore feelings for what happened in the past.

Caldwell said he is working with the district’s Recreation Advisory Committee and will be coming before the board at a later date with a thorough proposal, including a design and grant funding proposals.

“There’s a good chance it’s going to happen,” Wheeler said about the skate park.


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