School Committee Rejects Tilton Rooftop Solar Panel Array

(File photograph.)

Emotional arguments among School Committee members about safety, cost and the ownership of the array of panels ended with the rejection of a motion to give a local company access to the Tilton School roof to install electricity-producing solar panels.

For the second time in six months, three committee members—Scott W. Wood Jr., Shaun P. Toohey, and committee President Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello—voted together to scuttle a solar panel project. In June, their “no” votes were enough to kill a solar panel project by MassAmerican Energy planned at Haverhill High.

As WHAV recently reported, the City Council two weeks ago approved a 20-year power purchase and maintenance easement agreement between the city and Invaleon. A similar agreement was required from the School Committee before Invaleon could construct a 738 kilowatt grid solar electric system at Tilton.

At that time, councilors said they feared the School Committee would reject the project, based on comments the three School Committee members had made previously.

The energy produced by the rooftop panels could have been used to offset electricity bills for the district.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini and committee members Gail Sullivan and Paul A. Magliocchetti supported the installation, but the proposal died on a 3-3 tie. Committee member Sven Amirian removed himself from the discussion and vote, pointing to a “business relationship” with another solar company.

Amiran works for MassAmerican, the solar company that was going to install the high school solar array ultimately rejected by Toohey, Ryan-Ciardiello and Wood.

Fiorentini, sensing the likely outcome of the Tilton vote, asked Amirian whether he had asked the state’s Ethics Commission for a ruling on whether he could participate and vote. Fiorentini suggested the discussion and vote could be delayed in order for Amirian to seek the commission’s guidance, but Amirian said he had no intention of doing so.

Invaleon CEO Tom Wu and Toohey have had a contentious relationship since June, when Toohey suggested Invaleon, which has reportedly acted as a subcontractor for MassAmerican, employed “a felon.” As WHAV reported in June, the employee in question agreed in a 2012 consent order with the secretary of state not to sell unregistered and unexempt investments. The employee joined Invaleon in October 2015.

During Thursday’s discussion of the Tilton project, Toohey asked if Invaleon’s leadership would sign a personal guarantee on the project. Haverhill purchasing agent Orlando Pacheco, who vetted Invaleon’s proposal on the city’s behalf, said they would not.

Pacheco defended Invaleon’s business record and its reputation. He said the Haverhill police performed a legal search on the company, finding no liens or judgments against the company.

“The company is fine; would I let them put a solar array on my house, absolutely,” Pacheco said. The purchasing agent said he talked to seven entities that had Invaleon installations, and all said they would do business with the company again, with one renewing a contract for another solar array.

Ryan-Ciardiello grilled Pacheco on the safety aspect of the project, questioning a letter from a structural engineer who certified that the Tilton roof is strong enough to support the panel array and any snow that might accumulate. She asked why the engineer wasn’t at the meeting to answer questions, and asked for proof that the engineer actually visited the school and looked at the roof before making the determination.

Pacheco and Fiorentini reminded Ryan-Ciardiello that there are grave consequences for structural engineers who certify a building’s safety without performing due diligence to ensure their report is accurate.

“I have a little trouble understanding the safety concerns,” Fiorentini said.

Referring to City Hall, the mayor continued, “We are sitting in a building right now that has solar panels on the roof. If anyone feels unsafe, I suggest they can evacuate.”

Fiorentini pointed out to Ryan-Ciardiello that she brings her children daily to buildings with solar panels on them.

“I would never propose anything that would put our students at risk,” Fiorentini said. “We spent a million dollars to replace that roof and made sure it was safe. This is a good project.”

16 thoughts on “School Committee Rejects Tilton Rooftop Solar Panel Array

  1. I’m surprised there isn’t a lot of coverage on the Mayor threatening Ryan-Ciardiello’s career on live mic and camera if she didn’t vote for this.

    • I heard the sound. The mayor didn’t sound threatening to me, He was more of a father figure, offering advice. There’s no “There” there. It’s always funny when we catch things not meant for the public, but certainly no scandal worthy of the news.

  2. Can’t understand this situation. Doesn,t appear at all that the interests of the residents of the city were served. Why is Amarian refusing to seek an opinion from the ethics committee? Whats the story with the 3 dissenting votes. THe school budget needs to be increased. Decreased Electric costs from solar will free up more funds for pay for teachers, aides, custodians, cafeteria workers , etc. I, as our many, am very disappointed.and don’t feel the school department was properly served by this vote .

    • “Why is Amarian refusing to seek an opinion from the ethics committee?” –

      At the vote for HHS which was also tied (and I attended), this was brought up, he couldn’t vote on it and he had to wait outside chambers during discussion. In this case, his company is not tied to The Tilton School project, so not sure of the angle of why he would need another opinion in regard to ethics.

      “Your career is over if you vote against this” –

      That is what Fiorentini stated to Ryan-Ciardiello on a “hot mic”, and in my opinion, is how not only Mayor Jimmy truly operates in this city, but reflective of the one-way tyranny he and others in general operate in this state. I could care less about the solar panel issue, what folks might want to question is why Tilton is so bad for children to actually learn anything there. Deal with the solar issue after they figure out how to educate its students, which should be the priority.

      “free up more funds for pay for teachers, aides, custodians, cafeteria workers , etc.” –

      Ask Mayor Jimmy’s friend, Brian Dempsey why this state spends over $2 billion (with a “B”) on supporting Invaders in this state (i.e. housing, EDUCATION). While I think Beacon Hill would squander those funds were they to uphold the rule of law, that’s a lot of money that could go into our schools, meant for The American People and the Taxpayers who pay for it.

  3. Anyone watching the meeting knows there was no engineering report, the guy who presented it Orlando had no idea if anyone went to the school. He got tied up when presented numbers by Toohey, I thought he was gonna hide when Toohey had the numbers. This is part of the RIGGED system, The reason Trump was elected! People like this guy Orlando!! DRAIN THE SWAMP IN HAVERHILL

  4. Why reject the solar panels when in the end it is a great resource for the city and school? I agree with Jack , above. You need to put aside your personal feelings and do what’s best for our City and it’s people! Shame on the three who voted no!

    • Why reject the solar panels? Because mayor taxman and Orlando Pacheco have been intentionally and knowingly lying to Haverhill citizens about ALL of the energy projects that they have implemented in the city the past two years. Remember when the mayor had a front page headline promising residents a “30% Reduction” in they electric bills through a city wide energy aggregation program? Has your bill gone down 30% Donna? It will be a miracle if it is, because the “real” savings of that program was only going to be 4%. Mayor taxman made similar outrageous claims on other projects including saving $100,000.00 a year through a city hall lighting retrofit.

      Donna, with all due respect, making decisions on a project like this has nothing to do with “feelings”. It has to do with board members obtaining expert advice and applying business acumen to the issue. Given the absence of a structural engineering report from a certified engineering company to absolutely confirm the building can support all of the weight the solar panels would add, voting to reject the project was the sensible decision. The alternative could be a complete disaster.

      • A third party structural engineering report was submitted to the School Committee carrying a professional engineering stamp licensed through the Board of Professional Licensing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As was disclosed during the meeting, the school’s roof was aqueduct to support the weight of solar array as well as snow, wind, and gravity loads. This seems pretty clear that thorough investigation was performed.

        Also, they mentioned that the school did not HAVE to purchase any of the electricity. The agenda item was just for an easement so that the solar array could be constructed. Unless the roof is magically printing out money, there’s no reason to NOT put a solar array on there and give savings.

        I think Jack Haverhill is a plant from either Big Oil, or the Illuminati.

        Illuminati confirmed.

        • I do own XOM….does that count?

          As an insider, why didn’t you guys make the engineering report public so us sideline commentators could be informed about the facts? That’s a key piece of information, don’t you think CC? Whoever is in charge of your PR department needs a refresher course on what PR is.

  5. And we now WHY millions of people throughout the country voted for Trump. Taxpayers are tired of elected officials making decisions not based on what is good for the taxpayers, but more so what is good for their egos. Now it becomes apparent that a vendetta exists and is being acted upon. The measure of leadership is when said leader puts aside personal need or want and instead focuses on what is good for those who elected them.

    Maybe now, the people need to speak again at the ballot box,,unless of course the people do not mind be used as pawns in a Kardashian style squabble.

      • Come on now Smart Axx were you not allowed enough playdoh time, pizza and ice cream and time with the puppies after the election? No reason for the name calling.
        You must now pull up your big boy pants and accept the fact that there will be a new president.
        Remember one thing, we are not jerks, we are DEPLORABLES…
        Beam me up Scotty boy, he’s just entertainment on a Thursday night.