Scout Solar Moving into Former Catholic School in East Liverpool

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – “A big place with big plans” is how Matt Brophey, project executive, describes the Scout Solar company’s new local headquarters in the former St. Aloysius Catholic School.

The Tempe, Arizona-based solar company recently struck deals with both the city of East Liverpool and the village of Wellsville to incorporate solar energy installations in all of its government-owned facilities, with discussion also underway with other area entities for similar projects.

The Fifth Street school, closed in 2015 due to declining enrollment, will be the company’s third headquarters, with another in Daytona Beach, Florida, in addition to the Arizona location. 

This one will serve Ohio and other portions of the Midwest, Washington, D.C., and East Coast as projects materialize.

Purchased at the end of December from Holy Trinity Parish for $305,000, the 35,000-square-foot building consists of the original portion built in 1885 and a newer part constructed in 1953, according to Brophey, whose grandfather and father were both students at the school.

He and co-project executive Lance Frank, both East Liverpool natives, first approached city officials last year about implementing a solar installation here. Approval of the projects led to purchase of the building that Brophey predicts will pay for itself in the long run as well as boost the local economy.

The 12 bedrooms with Jack-and-Jill baths in the convent, which served as quarters for the school’s nuns and visiting priests, are being refurnished for employees who will work on the local solar installations.

The company is hiring local businesses for the renovation work, with contractor Kevin Kerr hired to do the interior construction and outside excavation on the solar installation sites and new carpeting purchased from local store Wise Buys Carpet.

At least one classroom is expected to be retained for training student welders and electricians from New Castle School of Trades and the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center in how to install the solar panels and other aspects of the project. 

The students will be paid for on-site work, though all details about their hiring have not been finalized.

It is anticipated welders and steel fabricators may be working as soon as the next two weeks. Those who work on the project will be eligible for permanent positions with Scout Solar after they graduate, Brophey says.

Matt Brophey, project executive for Scout Solar, outside the former St. Aloysius Catholic School in East Liverpool.

Having workers reside at the local facility will be a cost savings for the company in per diem expenses and also a boon for the local economy, according to Brophey, who expects the workers to frequent area restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses, injecting money into the community. 

Among the work crew is one person who attended culinary school, and with the school’s cafeteria available, Brophey says, “They’ll keep him busy.” 

In addition to workers’ housing, plans call for renovating the building’s 14 classrooms into loft-style apartments for rental to the public, which will also generate revenue toward the building’s cost. 

All new windows, LED lighting, a new roof, replacement of the boiler system with electric heating, upgraded air conditioning and asbestos abatement, if needed, are also in the plans.

Work on the roof, at a cost of $187,000, is expected to begin next week, weather permitting, and while furnishing the living quarters has started, renovation to the school itself is on hold until the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown completes removal of religious artifacts, with an auction of those items planned.

While there has been some skepticism about the feasibility of solar energy in this area, Frank says, “We’re serious guys. We have a terrific portfolio.”

According to Frank, the difference in 1,600 sunny hours per year in Florida and 1,260 per year in Ohio isn’t as great as many believe and necessitates installing only 30 percent more solar panels in Ohio to generate the same energy levels.

The projects will entail building structures in both communities, often incorporating the past with the future, according to Frank, son of the late East Liverpool Municipal Court Judge Dominic Frank.

“My dad always wanted to bring more economic opportunities here, especially for young people. East Liverpool has the same problems all small midwestern towns have, but we have a lot more advantages. People leave for better opportunities or kids have an idea and sit on it because there are no resources available [to implement it]. We at Scout Solar had this opportunity. We came in and are investing $10 million-plus into the community. We haven’t asked for one dollar.”

Not only lower power bills, but green technology and jobs are being brought by the company, Frank says, adding anyone interested should “give us a call.”

With start-up of the solar installation, East Liverpool will become the most renewable energy city in the state, according to Frank, who says, “Their facilities will be operated by the highest percent of renewable energy versus any city in Ohio.”

The city actually has a history of being an “early adopter of things,” Frank says, pointing out it was one of the first to have gas lines installed in homes.

Although the time frame for completing the solar installations in East Liverpool and Wellsville is not yet known, groundbreaking will likely begin when the winter weather abates, and Brophey anticipates Wellsville’s water treatment plant will be the first of the installations to energize.

Pictured at top: The former St. Aloysius Catholic School in East Liverpool.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.