The Gila Community College (GCC) governing board has waited for more than a year to put up solar panels in its parking lot, all the while watching government offices around the Rim Country complete projects.
Now, the college could pay $12,500 to get out of a contract with Folium, an energy company based in Texas that produces, develops and invests in alternative energies, including solar, wind and biomass. The board signed a contract with Folium in August of 2012 to secure financing to pay for building solar panels.
Since that time, Folium has failed to secure financing for the GCC project.
“Folium recognizes they are likely in default of the contract,” said Tom Harris, an alternative energy consultant GCC used to find Folium. “They are asking that we make them whole for the money they already invested in the project. In doing that, they would have a quit-claim that they would not be in default.”
Board member Larry Stephenson took offense at this request. He said he did not wish to support a company that had failed the board.
“The last time we considered this issue we instructed a letter of termination be issued to Folium that was to give them 14 days to correct this issue,” said Stephenson, “(if we pay) then we would be rewarding a private company — I would like to hear from counsel on this.”
Bryan Chambers, chief deputy county attorney, said that while he understood Stephenson’s response, he thought it best to prepare to pay off Folium.
“Sometimes what we have is that we have some claim and the elected official would say, very much like you do Dr. Stephenson, ‘This would be rewarding a litigant for doing something bad against the county,’” said Chambers, “(but) I have seen no agreement whereby (Folium) would not bring a claim against the college.”
Chambers went on to explain that if Folium filed a claim, GCC would have to pay for legal costs to defend itself. Chambers said that could end up costing the college as much as the payoff.
After hearing that, Sam Moorhead, president of the board felt it would be prudent for the board to set aside the $12,500.
Stephenson agreed, but in his motion, submitted the suggestion that Folium put in writing that they would be out of the project if paid.
The board passed the request.