Solar Farm Receives Extension

Robert Thomas

A proposed 10 MegaWatt solar power farm for Moose Jaw received an extension on its agreement to purchase City land but not without debate and questions.

Tim Mack, president and owner of MackSun Solar, asked Council for a one year extension on the agreement to purchase City lands until June 30th 2019.

Mack told Council the reason for the request was due to SaskPower delaying selecting the successful project.

"SaskPower has not made the decision on the successful proponent," he told Council.
The agreement will entail purchasing 130 acres of City land and include a training program plus facilities through Sask Polytechnic. Also a part of the project is AgriCorp Canada and the Piapot First Nation.

"To keep this project alive, I'm asking Council to extend our offer to purchase for another year."
Mack said the project was "what we believe is the best project on their (SaskPower's) table."

Councillor Don Mitchell asked "why the project is being delayed?" and whether or not there are "logical reasons why this has been fumbled along for two years?."

Mack replied that he could not speak for SaskPower but said the first 10 Megawatt project was the first project in 60 MegaWatts in total.

"They want to make sure the first project is done right and that will be the framework of all the projects."

Additionally, it was noted that the Moose Jaw site was not a site proposed by SaskPower but by MackSun. There were 200 applications that were narrowed down to 30.

"The numbers give us a fighting chance and we have to be in the game to succeed," Mayor Frasier Tolmie said in support of the extension.

Councillor Crystal Froese also supported the project.

"It's an essential project for Moose Jaw and in a perfect location for it," Coun Froese said.
However, Brian Swanson blocked off the sun by asking about the property tax payback from the project

"What will be the property tax status of that facility?" Swanson asked.

He went on to speak about there being two years having past since the project's announcement to get an answer about the project's projected property tax contribution to City coffers. He stressed that this was the third time asking the same questions.

Mack replied that he had spoken to the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA) and was told the "panels were in a fairly low taxable bracket" and not sure of the impact of and SaskPoly facilities built.

Coun Swanson responded "I have to prepare for the worst case case scenario where we have to pay 40 to 50 thousand to relocate a group...this is the third time (to ask the question) still no answers."

Mack responded that the project brought synergies by including Sask Polytech and First Nations
"If we can bring a new program for the City of Moose Jaw, the instructors who are leaving Sask Polytech, we may be bringing some of them back," Mack replied.

The verbal sparring continued with Swanson replying "two critical questions I have remain unanswered and I just don't think that's acceptable."

At this point, Mayor Tolmie re-entered the debate defending Mack.

"We have to look at the big picture and look at the future here," the Mayor said.

He referenced a report prepared for the Economic Development Commission and presented to Council about the drop in Provincial Government employment in the city, including Sask PolyTech.

SEE RELATED: Councillor Swanson Wants Less "Rah Rah", More Reality

"We have got to be looking at ways to get aggressively engaged."

The Mayor defended Mack in a series of comments.

"I don't think its up to you to find out what your taxes would be.'

"I don't believe (questions about) taxes should be posed to you when it comes to this program."

"I don't think it's fair for you to have to stickhandle that," Mayor Tolmie concluded.

MackSun received an extension with a 6 - 1 vote. Coun Swanson opposed the motion.

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