Commissioners discuss county properties, solar farm


By Meladi Brewer

GREENVILLE — The Darke County Board of Commissioners discussed an agreement with AAP Architecture, Inc, and a solar project planned for Darke County. Commissioners Matt Aultman, Mike Stegall, and Larry Holmes were all present.

The agreement between the Darke County Commissioners and App Architecture, Inc. was made as of Oct. 1 to provide professional architectural and engineering services for various county-owned facilities for the next five years.

“We are looking at upgrading a facility, so they are going to do a facilities assessment to go through all our mechanical systems like HVAC heating systems, electrical systems, look at our roofs, and structures of all of our buildings,” Aultman said.

The architectural and engineering team will help determine if more than normal maintenance is needed in order to ensure the safety of those utilizing the facilities.

“We got a lot of buildings, and you don’t know what you don’t know. We have some American Rescue Plan projects we are looking at some buildings for it regarding the health department,” Aultman said. “There are a few other projects as they become clear as well.”

There are numerous buildings in the county in question, and due to the quantity, the project will take the four to five years to complete. The assessment is to ensure the root of the problems are found and eliminated within a reasonable amount of time.

“Part of the problem too is we are trying to make sure we spend the money correctly,” Stegall added. “There are a lot of rules, so we hired an expert to make sure we get is spent wisely.”

Public attendee Connie Smith spoke up about the solar project at the end of the meeting clarifying the Darke County Citizens Prevention Association (DCCPA) is aware of the commissioners’ position at this point in the process and is trying to get the word out.

“Just to clarify, we are aware that you guys can’t actually do anything at this point, and I have said that on our Facebook group and at our town hall meeting that there is nothing we can do at this point,” Smith said. “I just want you to know that I am putting that out there.”

“I saw that on Facebook, and I was there Monday. I do appreciate you recognizing that it is just not time for us to engage,” Holmes said.

Both parties understood and agreed they do not want to do anything that would prohibit them from being able to engage in the future and to spread the word about the commissioners not being able to do anything at this point in the process. Moving forward, both the commissioners and DCCPA are gathering information regarding solar farms project and its pros and cons. Smith addressed her concerns directly.

“There is a rare risk of fire, and somebody in the group took it upon themselves to try to dig in to that a little more. Even though it’s rare, it is devastating when it happens,’ Smith said.

Smith proceeded to give examples of scenarios that have happened and the damage done. With one of the solar farm fields planning on being across from the ethanol plant, Smith raised the question, “What happens if anything happens?”

“I know it would have to be the perfect storm, but if something would happen it would be detrimental,” Smith said.

“I would think it would be similar to the wind farm where we were provided training as part of the program, but I may be proven wrong,” Holmes said. “Right now, we are just absorbing the information, taking it in, and waiting for the appropriate time for us to engage in, then we will go from there.”

The commissioners are currently working to educate themselves and understand the rules of Senate Bill 52.

“That concern is something we will have to add to the list that we have to get an answer to somewhere along the line,” Holmes said, “because public health, public safety, those are going to be part of the decision process.”

The Darke County Board of Commissioners meet every Monday and Wednesday at the county administrative office located at 520 S. Broadway in Greenville. For more information, contact the commissioner’s office at 937-547-7370.

To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].

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