Commissioners hear request for solar mou

Published 2:57 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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Dustin Burton gave an update on the Pineland project. “So the total project is just over 650 miles, the funded homes that are funded by the grant total somewhere in the neighborhood of just north of 5700 homes.”

He stated they planned to fund over 7,000 homes, and reported their current progress: “Currently, as of the end of May, we’ve completed 193 miles of that project. And we do have some areas that are available for service that we’re actively connecting, and currently, as of yesterday, we’ve connected 46 homes.”

Burton stated citizens could find out if their homes were in service areas at He mentioned that toward the end of August, they plan on having service available to 1,600 homes in areas around Andersonville and Lake Blackshear. Commissioner David Baldwin questioned Burton about the fiber ring. “So when it’s cut in one spot, it’s back fed?”

Burton responded: “Absolutely.”

Burton responded to further questions about redundancy: “There are some rings built into this network elsewhere.”

County administrator Doug Eaves addressed the Board on the blight ordinance. “This came up several months ago. We were looking at developing a blight ordinance. In researching the records we found that we already have [an] existing blight ordinance from 2009 that the commissioners had put in place. There were a couple of issues with that.”

Eaves stated that there was no resolution put in place declaring blight in Sumter County. “Part of the law that allows this to be put into the action requires a resolution declaring the existence of blight. That was never implemented on the record as far as we can see.”

County attorney Hayden Hooks also noted that the commissioners wanted to increase the increase in tax on blighted properties. Chair David Baldwin clarified the factor by which tax on blighted property would be increased: “Seven times.”

Baldwin entertained a motion to declare blight in Sumter County, a prerequisite for enforcing a blight ordinance. A motion was made by Commissioner Jessie Smith, which was seconded by Commissioner Jim Reid.

Next, Baldwin entertained a motion to adopt changes to the blight ordinance. A motion was made by Smith, which was seconded by Reid.

The Board also approved a 2% increase for County employees, also known as COLA, to adjust for cost of living increases.

Next, Harrison McKinnis, frontline developer of the Americus Solar project, addressed the Board. He updated the board on the project’s history: “Our project started development in 2017 with the signing of our first land agreement, we secured our permits with the county in 2019, and in 2021 executed a memorandum of understanding with the county to essentially agree to a payment in lieu of taxes structure for payments over the first 20 years of phases that would be expected for our 650 megawatt project.”

He gave recent updates: “We continue to progress the project by advancing our engineering design as well as fully funding the construction of the Blacksmith substation that many of you may have seen driving South of Lesley and DeSoto from on Blacksmith road, it is. . .. quite the behemoth of a substation. It’s certainly the largest one that I’ve ever seen.”

He also presented the commissioners with an amended MOU: “This amended and restated MOU does a couple of basic things. The first is that it permits the commercial operation state of a first phase through the end of the year 2028. Originally, that date was through the end of this year 2024. There been several challenges in the industry, specifically related to the supply chain for panels and other equipment that have challenged across the nation, but more specifically in the state of Georgia, many developers to get their projects online in the past two to three years. Invenergry has been affected by that as well.”

He mentioned that the agreement had further support. “We’ve worked with the Development Authority to discuss these changes. Specifically, I’ve worked quite a bit with Executive Director Rusty Warner, and counsel for the development authority, Mr. James Skipper, they have provided their blessing on this agreement, although the Development Authority has not voted on it formally.”

He gave further updates: “We are not in a place to start construction is we do not have that power purchase agreement or build transfer agreement that is typically a prerequisite to start construction.”

County attorney Hayden Hooks clarified: “Georgia Power and similar entities realize that maybe having control over the project might be better than relying on the third party.” She talked about how the amendment would allow them to sell the project. The Board tabled it until next week.

During citizens comments, Charlotte Walker addressed the Board, in reference to a tract of her property that was listed on Qpublic: “And so it says very clearly that the information is not to be used as legal.” She claimed it had been abused to take a portion of her property.

She mentioned her property was in two tracts: “I have track one and track two.” However, she stated that tract one didn’t show up on Qpublic, but was listed under another owner. She talked about how she was going to a funeral one rainy Friday, discovering: “And I saw a mobile home on my property.”

Walker mentioned obtaining a survey previously during a dispute over an easement as evidence of her property’s location. “That’s my property. I’m not interested in selling or leasing. I have things that I want to do with my own property.”

She mentioned contacting former code enforcement officer Heather Beamon: “She confirmed that it was mine.” She raised questions as to how the mobile home could be permitted for the property.

After the meeting Walker provided further details, stating the Harris’s bought lot 97 from Ricky Stewart, but built on lot 98 which is adjacent to Five Point Road. When contacted, Lewis Harris declined comment.