An amendment in the district’s tax abatement agreement for Hecate Energy Ramsey’s solar farm project was approved by the Louise ISD school board in a 5-0 vote last week. Chris Faas was absent, and Jay Heard abstained from the vote and from signing a conflict of interest disclosure.

Due to COVID-19, Hecate asked for a one-year delay in payments to the district. The district will receive an additional $50,000 pilot payment due to the amendment.

LISD board members signed a conflict of interest disclosure earlier on in Hecate’s Chapter 313 application process, but Superintendent Garth Oliver asked them to sign another before Monday’s vote.

“They had to sign it (at) a different time when they voted before on other things,” Oliver said. “So with our attorney … she said that every time we’ll do a vote, we’ll just have to sign to make sure that we don’t have any vested interest.”

Heard has voted against solar farm projects from Hecate and SunChase Power in 2019 meetings. Heard did not respond to the Leader-News’ request for comment as of presstime.

In December 2019, Heard opposed a tax abatement agreement for LISD with Hecate that passed with a 5-1 board vote. At the same meeting, the board approved a similar agreement with SunChase Power in a 4-2 vote, with Board Secretary Pro Tem Amanda Cox and Heard dissenting.

In March 2019, Heard voted against accepting Hecate’s tax limitation application with LISD, but the board approved it 6-1. In May 2019, Heard and Cox voted against accepting SunChase’s 313 tax limitation application, but it was approved 4-2.

Hecate’s proposed solar farm, dubbed the Ramsey Project, includes 1.8 million solar panels on 4,300 acres of land located southeast of Louise. SunChase’s project, the Louise Solar Project, is smaller than Hecate’s at 1,500 acres south of Louise.

Both solar companies are currently in the process of tax abatement negotiations with Wharton County before beginning their respective projects.

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