Nevada County Quorum Court hears pitch for solar power system
Above photo: From left Jay Holstead and Walter Wills of McKinstry Group's Little Rock office speak to the Nevada County Quorum Court about the use of solar power to reduce the energy expenses for the courthouse and possibly other county buildings.

When the Nevada County Quorum met Wednesday night, most of the time was taken up with a presentation by representatives from a company called McKinstry on an option for using solar power to reduce the county courthouse’s electricity expenses. 

The justices of the peace also heard reports from Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Director Mary Godwin and Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jamie Hillery. The meeting is available for viewing in its entirety below this story.

After the opening prayer was said by Herbert Coleman, the pledge of allegiance was said and the approval of the October meeting’s minutes, the JPs were given time to respond to a financial report on the county’s funds.  Several questions arose about lines of spending that the JPs wanted to know more about, but Ricky Reyenga, the County’s Treasurer being absent, these questions will be held for the December meeting. The court voted to approve the financial report. 

Moving on to reports, the court heard from Mary Godwin, who introduced three guests attending the meeting from her leadership course.  The graduates of the course will be awarded certificates in a ceremony December 7th. 

She then spoke about a map of the county released by the Arkansas State Broadband Office, showing areas where residents cannot get broadband internet service in pink. She told the JPs to let her know if they saw inaccuracies on the map in the areas they each represent. The Arkansas State Broadband Office has been coordinating an effort to make sure broadband access is available to all Arkansans, using funds from federal legislation. 

Godwin said that if areas are shown as able to receive broadband when they do not, the state needed the county to communicate that to the ASBO. Then the agency will begin to disperse grants to broadband companies who can expand their services to the unserved areas. 

JP Willie Wilson asked about ways low-income households could receive broadband services for lower rates. Godwin replied that these were available upon the submission of an application. If approved, these households could receive up to a $30 per month discount toward broadband costs. 

Wilson commented on the difficulty of filling out these forms for those currently without broadband services. Godwin agreed and said she had sent the state feedback about the difficulty of these forms. Often people are giving up part way through the process. “People are just getting tired of it. Fine. So there is a lot of money in that. That's not being tapped into,” Godwin said. 

Godwin also pointed out that the county sales tax collections for October had crept over $200,000 for the first time in over two years. She said these funds did not yet include taxes collected at the new Love’s store. She reported as well on 800 eighth graders from the area attending the technical career Explore Success event at University of Arkansas-Hope Texarkana’s Hempstead Hall November 9th, where many companies from the area gave break-out sessions on jobs available now and in the future. 

Wilson asked Godwin to find out if grant money would be available to repair sewer problems during periods of rain in New Town. She replied that acquiring these funds would have to wait until April for a drainage project starting in January to be finished first since two such grants from the particular agency cannot be used at the same time. 

Kaitlyn Kirkham of the Nevada County Extension Office reported she had provided the court with a written update of what the agency has done throughout the year. 

Hillery reported that 1,700 people walked through the Trick or Treat on Elm Street set up.  Fifty-five vendors were involved. A ribbon-cutting for Come and Glow Aesthetics was also held. She described this year’s Giving Tree Project, in its fourth year, in which children from low-income households can be adopted so they receive necessities like coats, shoes and clothing. She said 26 families had applied and all but two have been adopted in the past two days. 

Future events, Hillery said, will include a shop local day on November 30th. Businesses have up to the 27th to register to stay open from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. that day.  “This was created just so that our community will get out and shop local before the holidays, instead of jumping on Amazon or going to Texarkana and shopping. We're trying to encourage people to spend their money here locally at our local businesses,” Hillary said. 

She also announced that the Christmas Parade is set for December 7th at 6:00 p.m. 

With reports finished, after a little discussion the court set Monday November 20th for a budget meeting in which each department would present their proposals for funding for the coming year. 

The presentation by McKinstry’s Jay Holstead, Account Executive from the company’s Little Rock office and Walter Wills, Project Director began with an onscreen slide show. The two pitched a way of saving the county money by installing solar panels either on the courthouse roof or at a nearby site which could produce and supply enough power to make a significant difference to the county’s electrical bills as long as the system (which would be maintained by McKinstry) lasted. This projects to be about 35 years.  

After the JPs asked many questions about financing and other matters which the two representatives answered, it appeared that a vote was about to take place on signing a letter of intent to apply for an Arkansas Historical Preservation grant to help fund the installation. That’s when the county’s legal counsel, Ben Hale, said he had two concerns before such a vote, that the county likely needed under state law to go through a bids or quotes process to allow for other companies to have a chance at the project and that Arkansas Historical Preservation Program grants meant the giving up of control by the county to make any changes to the buildings their money was used for. Hale cited the case of Hempstead County receiving funds from AHP for its old courthouse and now not being able to make needed changes to make the building practical for use today. 

Holstead and Wills explained options for allowing McKinstry to confer with other state agencies to handle the bidding process.  They also said McKinstry would assist the county with finding financing if it chose not to apply for the AHP grant. The goal would be to avoid the county having to raise taxes to its citizens to pay for the project. 

Hale’s expressed concerns prompted the JPs to favor having Hale confer with McKinstry and allowing time for further research, JP Wilson having made a motion to that effect. The motion passed unanimously. 

JP Patricia Grimes brought up what she sees as a need for the county to make preparations for the total eclipse upcoming in April 2024. At this a discussion ensued on what might occur on the day of the eclipse. Godwin suggested conferring with the state office of emergency management. 

Prior to adjournment, Wilson said the court needed to recognize the passing of JP Herbert Coleman’s brother and JP Curtis Lee Johnson reaching the age of 93.