Possible solar farms in Dougherty County cause controversy

Possible solar farms in Dougherty County cause controversy
The solar farm would be built at the intersection of Moultrie and Spring Flats Road. (Souce: WALB)
The solar farm would be built at the intersection of Moultrie and Spring Flats Road. (Souce: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A possible solar farm coming to Dougherty County has caused some controversy between commissioners.

Some commissioners are concerned with how land rezoning notices are being sent out.

This land rezoning sign has started a controversy among Dougherty County Commissioners, which isn't the first time.

"Déjà Vu all over again. We've got homes in this area," said Commissioner Anthony Jones.

The issue is a possible solar farm that would be built at the intersection of Moultrie and Spring Flats Road. Some commissioners say they are concerned with how the planning commission has been notifying homeowners when land in their area is going to be rezoned.

"Move out here for peace and calm, and all of a sudden we find ourselves boxed in," said Jones.

Paul Forgey, with the Dougherty County Planning Commission, recommended that commissioners vote to approve the over one thousand acre solar plant facility.

Commissioners still had many questions about the possible benefits the farm would bring to the county.

"Is there any residual impact, positive, on the citizens?" asked Commissioner John Hayes.

Stephen Land, the project manager of NextEra Energy, the company who would rent the land and build the panels, said the community would benefit through the tax revenue the solar farm would bring, including 300 construction jobs.

"It's going to be an eight to nine month construction period. So within that construction period, you're going to have some construction jobs be brought to the county. And with that, they're going to have to stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants, and we think that's also a gain for the county," said Land.

Still, some commissioners want more information before any decisions are made, which means possibly bringing a third-party in to provide more information.

"I believe that there is a specialist with UGA through the extension office that we may be able to schedule to make a presentation to the board," said Mike McCoy, interim county administrator.

A public hearing on the solar farms will be held next Monday, Aug. 20.

Also at the Monday commission meeting: 

Commissioners heard an update of the more than 40 southwest Georgia farmers that attended a growers' safety training course through the University of Georgia county extension office.

James Morgan, Dougherty County UGA county extension coordinator, told commissioners at Monday's meeting about several courses and training programs they have offered to farmers and community members.

County extension offices held the Produce Safety Alliance Growers' Training Program.

The classes were offered to more than 40 produce growers across southwest Georgia.

Morgan told participants how to safely grow crops here.

"We trained the producers on taking water samples and updated them on the water requirements for watering their crops," said Morgan.

Morgan also conducted 16 volunteer income tax assistance appointments.

Morgan said they helped more than 50 people file their state and income taxes.

Morgan also said they received more than $44,000 in federal tax refunds because of programs like this.

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