Evolutions Gym sees the sunny side with new solar canopy

The Tulare Hospital District approves a solar and lighting project for the Evolutions Gym parking lot after six months of review

TULARE – After a lengthy debate for a solar canopy to go up at Evolutions Gym, the Tulare Hospital District board decided to follow through with the project due to the savings it would generate.

On Dec. 9, the Tulare Hospital District (THD) announced that they signed documents to fund a long-debated solar and lighting project for the Evolutions Gym on Prosperity Avenue. The THD board unanimously approved the project at a special meeting on Nov. 29 and immediately signed documents to lock in the interest rate. The project will place solar canopies over the parking lot of the gym.

“They have a very expensive electric utilization [at Evolutions Gym] that this will offset,” Interim CEO Randy Dodd said. “Long term, this becomes a net gain for the business and creates an operating cash flow positive for everything.”

THD board president Kevin Northcraft said the financing payments for the project will be completely covered by the energy savings that the district will accumulate if they switch to solar. It is estimated that in the span of 30 years, THD will save roughly $7.5 million. The beginning-to-end positive cash flow for the project was made possible by over $660,000 in federal rebates from the Inflation Reduction Act. In total, the project would cost $2.7 million to complete. 

“That [savings] estimate is based on modest increases in future energy costs; the actual savings could easily be double,” Northcraft said in a statement.

There was a six month reviewing process for the solar project, with rising interest rates and uncertainty of eligible Federal rebates put the decision to a halt. Now, THD is moving forward with ENGIE Services U.S., who will be rolling out the project soon.

The project was extensively reviewed and recommended by municipal advisor Wulff, Hansen & Co. That firm helped negotiate guaranteed savings for 20 years for the District. Once this project is completed, the board will get bids to resurface the parking lot after the solar canopies are installed. 

“It was debated pretty heavily within the board, but ultimately, the board opted to go forward because of the positive cash flow, and that it’s environmentally preferable,” Dodd said. “When we can find a way to produce renewable energy and also get a cost savings out of it, it makes sense to go forward with the project.”

Another reason the solar project was put on the backburner was due to past bankruptcy that was a direct result of mismanagement. However, despite bankruptcy, THD was able to get financing at an interest rate of 5.3%. 

The former Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi, CFO Alan Germany, and counsel Bruce Greene were responsible for the money mismanagement. It is alleged the trio of former HCCA executives used control of the Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) and influenced the Tulare Local Health Care District board locally and Southern Inyo Health Care District in Lone Pine, Calif. to enrich themselves through the improper use of taxpayer and private loans, and other public integrity crimes. 

HCCA was able to get away with it for three years from 2015 to 2017 by promising to save the cash-strapped hospitals all while stealing from the other and then pocketing the money. The case was originally filed in August of 2020, but is still ongoing.

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