MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa's Board of Supervisors is furious with the company hired to install solar panels on and near county buildings after the green energy firm ignited a public uproar by cutting down 100 eucalyptus trees near the entrance of a popular regional park near Pinole.
"It's outlandish!" said Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, of Discovery Bay. "I have had it with this company!"
"I'm appalled," added Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, of Pleasant Hill. "I cannot fathom why someone thought they could cut down all those trees."
The women are referring to Main Street Power, which failed to send a representative to the supervisors' meeting Tuesday and answer their questions in public. However, the company reportedly has told county staff privately that it may sue over the dispute.
Two weeks ago, the county ordered all work stopped on the solar panel project adjacent to the county jail next door to the gateway of the Point Pinole Regional Park.
It's too late to save the trees. Construction crews cut them down in early September in preparation for the placement of the solar panels.
The board wants Main Street Power to redesign the solar panel field and accommodate the restoration of a tree buffer between the jail and the regional park, but the firm has said the county must pay for it.
Whether the negotiations end up in court is an open question.
The county admits its staff approved the solar panel site plan under which Main Street Power proceeded to cut down the trees. The decision was made by people who have since left the county, staff members told the board Tuesday.
Main Street Power also obtained a permit from the city of Richmond, whose staff apparently had few concerns about the non-indigenous, fire-prone species.
Contra Costa signed contracts with the firm in 2010 for the installation of solar panels on the rooftops and adjacent to 11 of its offices, maintenance yards and county jails.
In exchange for a 20-year agreement for the purchase of power, the county would save about $500,000 on its electrical bill and earn bragging rights as a green county.
The supervisors never saw specific site plans but left the job up to staff.
None of the other sites involves the loss of trees except for the Martinez animal shelter, where two trees have already been cut down.