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Lack of contractor’s license no impediment to solar contractor on Auburn city project

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The surprise revelation that Pacific Power Management LLC has an inactive contractor’s license won’t be an impediment to constructing a solar installation at the city of Auburn’s wastewater treatment plant, President David Dwelle said Friday. Dwelle said the Auburn Airport Industrial Park-based photovoltaic business was unaware that its license was inactive until it received a letter April 21 from the Contractors State License board. Plans are to have a contractor with an active license do the work at the Ophir Road plant while Pacific Power Management serves as the developer. Auburn has signed a power-purchase agreement with Pacific Power that calls for the business to install solar panels on city owned property. Under the agreement approved by the City Council in March, Pacific Power will sell the energy produced back to the city at a reduced rate and Auburn can purchase the photovoltaic facility after 10 years. There are no upfront costs to the city. Venus Stromberg, Contractors State License Board spokeswoman, said records showed Pacific Power’s contractor’s license became inactive April 13. Because it’s inactive, the business can’t serve as a contractor until it’s activated again, she said. Stromberg also said there were no indications of an action, fine or revocation by the License Board. Under state law, a contractor’s license is needed when contracting services cost more than $500. Jack Warren, city public works manager, said that the solar power plant is on schedule to be built this summer. Warren said that under state law, Pacific Power will be owner-builder and won’t need the contractor’s license. The electrical connection after the panels are installed will require a contractor and Pacific Power has informed the city that it will hire a licensed contractor to complete that work, he said. Dwelle said the business learned only last week that a change in status four years ago for the six-year-old enterprise from a joint venture to a limited liability company voided the license. “As it turns out, the license we had for the last five years was technically not valid,” he said. “It was an honest mistake. A whole bunch of entities can but an LLC can’t hold a contractor’s license.” While Pacific Power pursues reactivation of its license, it’s free to use other contractors while continuing to work on the projects it is moving forward on, Dwelle said.