Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, Aug. 7 @ 5:55 p.m. / Local Government
Harbor Commissioners Ask Attorney to Review Solar Contract After Missed Deadlines, Cuts to Project Size
Crescent City Harbor District’s legal counsel will review a contract the port has with a Costa Mesa-based firm tasked with installing a solar project that would save the harbor money.
Commissioners on Tuesday asked Deputy General Counsel Autumn Luna to look at their contract with American Diversified Energy after the firm missed a July 15 deadline to complete the project and had to cut the size of the project in half.
The system, which included rooftop solar panels on the Pacific Seafood and Albers Seafood buildings and was originally designed to generate 1.3 megawatts, will now be a 791 kilowatt system, said Deputy Harbormaster Lane Tavasci. The firm cut the size of the project after a structural test determined the roofs on the two buildings weren't sound enough to bear the full project's weight, according to Tavasci.
Though ADE had to change the size of the project, Tavasci said Tuesday that he thinks the contract between the firm and the harbor is still good.
"We could amend things down the road to 791 (kilowatts), but I personally think it might we a good thing to leave it at (1.3 megawatts)," he said. "Say if we build a marine storage unit, we could add solar (panels) to that."
Tavasci said he has kept commissioners apprised of changes to the solar project. But Luna said the contract the harbor district entered into with ADE in December 2018 should still be reviewed.
Commissioners agreed, with Carole White pointing out that the changes and modifications have compromised the original contract’s integrity.
“We need to know where we are as opposed to where we started,” she said.
Her colleague, Rick Shepherd, was absent on Tuesday.
Harbor commissioners in November 2018 rejected an ADE request to establish a Dec. 31, 2019 deadline to complete the project, which consists of installing rooftop solar panels on the Albers Seafood, Pacific Choice Seafood and Fashion Blacksmith buildings as well as constructing carports near the district office and inner boat basin.
Instead commissioners gave the firm until July 15 to finish all phases of the installation. Though the solar panels have arrived at the port, the project has been held up due to the firm’s difficulty in getting equipment to Crescent City, according to Lane Tavasci. He said the firm needed an 80-foot crane to get materials on top of Fashion Blacksmith, so he requested work begin on the Albers and Pacific Choice Seafood buildings first.
However, Commissioner Brian Stone noted that though the harbor district gave ADE an earlier deadline to complete the project, there were no monetary penalties tied to it if they should miss that deadline.
According to Luna, both parties reached a compromise when the harbor promised not to include penalties in exchange for ADE buying the solar panels and installing the project.
“The problem is we don’t have a lot of enforcement authority under that contract,” she said. “At this point, what do we have as a stick if they don’t get this done?”
Commissioner Wes White noted that ADE’s solar panels are currently being stored at the harbor.
“We do have a stick,” he said. “We have a stick because they have materials here.”
In a July 19 article, Tavasci told the Wild Rivers Outpost that the first project delays came in November when ADE discovered from Pacific Power, the local utility, that a 75-kilowatt transformer needed upgrading to a minimum of 350 kilowatts to complete the project. Obtaining the upgraded transformer would take six months.
The engineering reports for the roofing contract weren’t available in a timely manner, he told the Outpost. And a delay in U.S. Government decisions regarding import taxation also stalled the project.
The California Coastal Commission also stepped in with a requirement to increase the width of the carport foundations to 4 feet wide and to make sure the structures’ steel beams can withstand 120 mph winds, Tavasci said.
On Tuesday, Tavasci said an ADE representative told him that he would be able to “have a better flavor” of when the project would start in about two weeks.
Luna said she’d ask the harbor’s general counsel, Bob Black, to come back to commissioners with the findings of the contract review at the district’s Aug. 20 meeting.
Luna also said she would also ask Black to return to the Crescent City Harbor District about “where we are” on Measure C on Aug. 20. Approved by voters in November 2018, Measure C increased the transient occupancy tax visitors to hotels and motels in the county pay from 8 percent to 10 percent. The measure also established a 2 percent TOT on RV spaces within the county.
Revenue generated by the tax would be used to pay down a $5.425 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan used to rebuild the harbor’s inner boat basin following tsunamis in 2006 and 2011. Tax dollars would also pay for repairs to port facilities such as Citizens Dock, the Whaler Island Groin and an outer boat basin seawall.
On Tuesday, Stone said his understanding was that the county wouldn’t release the revenue generated by the tax measure until the annual loan payment was made to the USDA.
The Crescent City Harbor District will also hold a public workshop on the placement of signs as well as the design of informational signs about the animals people might see at the port before its regular meeting Aug. 20.