Videos: Budget Work Session, Lowndes County Commission 2022-05-23

No citizens showed up other than Gretchen Quarterman, behind the LAKE video camera. Commissioners did not vote, because this is presumably the first of several Budget Hearings. Or is it? It was billed as a Work Session. Anyway, it took seventeen minutes.

[Executives and Revenue]
Executives and Revenue

County Manager Paige Dukes said Continue reading

Videos: Seven minutes for three appointments, one subdivision streets, and alcohol, plus long County Manager Reports @ LCC 2022-05-10

Two weeks ago, the six-minute Reports took almost as long as the entire rest of the Regular Session of the Lowndes County Commission.

[Appointments and Reports]
Appointments and Reports

Clay Griner did show up to vote on an item in his district, but Scottie Orenstein did not: 6.b. Adopt Resolution Accepting Infrastructure for Grove Pointe Phase V Sect 2. Commissioner Demarcus Marshall was also absent. Commissioners Joyce Evans and Mark Wisenbaker were present both at the Work Session and this Regular Session. Chairman Bill Slaughter was present.

County Manager Paige Dukes was also present, giving many Reports, assisted in a video about Griner Park at Webster and Ashley Street.

Commissioner Joyce Evans provided some amusment, Continue reading

5 Valdosta rezonings, 1 Hahira ordinance amendment, 4 Lowndes County rezonings with without packets @ GLPC 2022-05-23

Everything from a pair of personal care homes to a fraternity to a church to the Salvation Army wants rezoning or variances at this evening’s Greater Lowndes Planning Commission (GLPC) meeting.

The board packet materials for the Hahira and Valdosta items are on the LAKE website, thanks to City Planner Matt Martin.


LAKE has no materials for the Lowndes County items, and no copy of the draft minutes from the previous meeting, because Lowndes County has not yet sent them in response to a LAKE open records request.

Here is the agenda:

Greater Lowndes Planning Commission
~ Lowndes County ~ City of Valdosta ~ City of Dasher ~
~ City of Hahira ~ City of Lake Park ~ City of Remerton ~

Monday, May 16, 2022 5:30 P.M. Work Session
Monday, May 23, 2022 5:30 P.M. Regular Session
Lowndes County South Health District Administrative Office
325 West Savannah Avenue, Valdosta, Georgia

Continue reading

Budget Work Session, Lowndes County Commission 2022-05-23

Update 2022-05-23: Videos: Budget Work Session, Lowndes County Commission 2022-05-23.

Appeared on a few days ago:

[Budget Work Session Notice]
Budget Work Session Notice

No agenda. No draft budget on the Finance Department web pages (the most recent is the one about to expire).

The budget meeting is after the 8:30 AM Work Session. Continue reading

$1.6 million road resurfacing, 2 appointments, subdivision streets, Walkers Crossing Roundabout, Valdosta extraterritorial water and sewer @ LCC 2022-05-23

Update 2022-05-23: 9:00 AM Budget Work Session.

They propose to approve $1.6 million for resurfacing some roads, it’s not clear which ones, at the Lowndes County Commission Work Session Monday morning and voting Regular Session Tuesday evening.

[Quarterman Estates, Walkers Crossing Roundabout]
Quarterman Estates, Walkers Crossing Roundabout

They will also pretend that this will not cost the county money down the road for street maintenance: Continue reading

Videos: Mayor announces first trash trap, committees for ARPA funds @ VCC 2022-05-19

Council Sonny Vickers was welcomed back warmly after abscence due to illness (I welcomed him before the meeting). Later, he thanked staff and council for their assistance.


Mayor Scott James added two council members each as observers to each of the ARPA fund disbursment committees, for non-profits and for for-profit businesses.

After Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman asked for action about trash, Council Andy Gibbs and Mayor James vied for who would get to announce what the city had already done. Mayor James in Council Comments announced the city had ordered Continue reading

Audit, Crime Lab Hydrogen Generator, 2 ARPA Grant Selection Committees @ VCC 2022-05-19

Update 2022-05-20: Videos: Mayor announces first trash trap, committees for ARPA funds @ VCC 2022-05-19.

In a very light agenda for tomorrow evening’s meeting, the Valdosta City Council nonetheless will contemplate $1,978,502.40 in spending. They will also hear an audit report.

$33,502.40 Consideration of a request to purchase a Hydrogen Generator for the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory.
$945,000.00 Consideration of appointments for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Non-Profit Grant Selection Committee.
$1,000,000.00 Consideration of appointments for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Small Business Grant Selection Committee.
$1,978,502.40 Total

The Hydrogen Generator for the Crime Lab will come out of $36,000 from the General Fund. “This is the equipment that is used for drug identification and blood alcohol testing.”

The two Grant Selection Committees will dispense funds from the $16,254,692 allocated to Valdosta by the federal government in an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant, of which $8,127,346 has been received to date. The City Council previously allocated $945,000 for nonprofits and $1,000,000 for small businesses. These Committees will decide which organizations get the funds. You probably recognize many of the names on the committee candidate lists.

[Selection Committees]
Selection Committees

Here is the agenda. The board packet, received in response to a LAKE open records request, is on the LAKE website.

5:30 PM Thursday, May 19, 2022

Continue reading

Videos: Five minutes for three appointments, one subdivision streets, and alcohol @ LCC 2022-05-09

Update 2022-05-23: Regular Session Videos: Seven minutes for three appointments, one subdivision streets, and alcohol, plus long County Manager Reports @ LCC 2022-05-10.

In the five-minute Work Session yesterday morning, the few Commissioners who showed up breezed through everything with no discussion. Commissioners Scottie Orenstein and Clay Griner were absent, even though this is in their districts: 6.b. Adopt Resolution Accepting Infrastructure for Grove Pointe Phase V Sect 2. But of course it is expected that the Commission will approve that item this evening at 5:30 PM. County Manager Paige Dukes was also absent, in her case due to illness.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, followed by a LAKE video playlist. There are no notes, because nothing happened worth commenting on. See also Continue reading

Rainbow over Perry Solar, Houston County, Georgia 2022-05-04, 2020-12-01

Rainbow over solar power.

[Rainbow Perry Solar]
Rainbow Perry Solar

That’s Perry Solar or Houston Solar, south of Perry, GA, in Houston County: a county that puts its board packets online, unlike Lowndes County.

I took these pictures May 4, 2022, at 32.3739740, -83.7685020, which is around I-75 mile 130, about half way from Perry, GA, to GA 26 at Exit 127.

[Location, Firetower Road, between Perry, GA and GA 26]
Location, Firetower Road, between Perry, GA and GA 26

That’s just south of no-exit Firetower Road, also known as Red Dirt Road. So it’s what Silicon Ranch calls Houston Solar Project,

The 68-megawatt (MWac) Houston Solar Project is part of another significant expansion of the partnership between Silicon Ranch and Green Power EMC. More than 30 of GPEMC’s Member EMCs across the state will share in the energy produced by the Houston Solar Project.

Or Perry Solar, according to the map in the Houston County Commission Agenda for December 1, 2020. That’s right, Houston County puts its entire board packet online with its agenda, unlike Lowndes County, Georgia. Houston County at 157,000 people is not a lot bigger than Lowndes County at 117,000.

[Map: Perry Solar]
Map: Perry Solar

As you can see from the googlemap aerial, apparently the site was formerly occupied by planted pines.

Ashton Packer, WGXA News, Friday, May 14, 2021, New Houston County solar farm to power 11,000 homes,

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga.— On just less than 800 acres of land outside Perry, a major state-wide solar project is underway.

It begins with a 55 million dollar investment and ends with the ability to power 11,000 Georgia households with renewable energy.

The project belongs to Silicon Ranch, an independent solar power producer from Nashville.

Since breaking ground in December 2020, the company has poured millions into the land (on Firetower Road, just off I-75), the equipment, and in hiring more than 300 local workers.

Viewpoint 32.3739740, -83.7685020

Silicon Ranch has partnered with Green Power EMC, a renewable power distributor based in Tucker. Green Power distributes to 30 different local EMCs across the state, including Middle Georgia EMC, Central Georgia EMC, and Oconee EMC.

Once complete, the farm will be capable of generating 68 megawatts of power in a year. For perspective, 400 homes can be powered for a year on just one megawatt.

The project has attracted approval from several state officials, including the Governor himself.

“We are excited that Silicon Ranch continues to make significant investments in Georgia communities to power homes and businesses with low-cost, locally generated solar energy,” said Kemp in a press release.

Several statements from Silicon Ranch and Green Power EMC have also said that this solar power will come at a low cost, though it’s not clear exactly how low that might be.

WGXA reached out for comment from Houston County Commission Chairman, Tommy Stalnaker, on potential rates and when residents can expect the new power in their homes.

Since this story has aired, Stalnaker has not responded.

[Rainbow solar end]
Rainbow solar end

Houston County Chairman Stalnaker was already on the record on page 3 of the Minutes for the December 1, 2020, meeting of the Houston County Commission:

Chairman Stalnaker remarked that the Silicon Ranch Corp. is constructing a solar farm that will be an asset to Houston County. It will be located on Firetower Road east of I75 and will be a good source of energy for the EMCs. He recognized Mr. Larry Walker, Houston County Development Authority Chairman Ben Hulbert, and Executive Director Angie Gheesling.

Ms. Gheesling thanked the Commissioners and School Superintendent Dr. Mark Scott for support of this project and remarked that it brings a $55 million investment that will generate the type of green power renewable energy that prospective companies look for in a community. Silicon Ranch brings a different approach from most solar companies in that they will own this property rather than lease it. Flint EMC will be a partner in this project. She thanked General Hammerstedt for her comments relative to our community.

Chairman Hulbert characterized Silicon Ranch as a first-class company and expressed his appreciation for the support this project received from the Board of Commissioners and others involved. He also thanked Mr. Thomson and Mr. McMichael for their service to our community.

Mr. Larry Walker reiterated that this project was a private investment not a statefunded project. He commented that he is proud of Silicon Ranch’s commitment and that we are fortunate Houston County was chosen for this project site.

[Rainbow solar hill]
Rainbow solar hill

That result was reported in the Houston Home Journal, unknown date, but probably December 1 or 2, 2022, Solar Farm Special Exception approved,

The first items of new business consisted of more public hearings for Special Exception Applications, 10 of which were approved, and four were tabled. On the number of Special Exception Applications, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tommy Stalnaker said, “Normally, we don’t have this many special exceptions. We’ve had a lot more in recent months, and we’ve discussed it internally. It’s certainly a sign of the times, where people are looking to augment the current level of employment, or they’re doing this for a level of employment.”

Furthermore, Stalnaker went on record to proclaim his approval of the new Silicon Ranch solar farm in Bibb and Houston County. “It is in direct benefit to Robins Air Force Base,” he stated, providing a secondary source of power to the base itself. “Silicon Ranch is a good company,” he added, “I think it will be a good asset to the county.” Executive Director Angie Gheesling, as well as Chairman Ben Hulbert of the Houston County Development Authority both spoke afterward and stated their excitement for the new solar farm, as well as the industry and business it will bring to the county. Silicon Ranch is a Tennessee based “Solar Energy Pioneer,” and its solar farm within our community will be privately owned.

Silicon Ranch has on its website as a news story, with the date missing, an announcement from the Georgia governor. Which turns out to be from November 17, 2020, Governor Kemp Announces $55 Million Investment for Houston County,

Silicon Ranch, one of the nation’s largest independent solar power producers, has selected Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives, Inc. (NASDAQ: IEA) as the general contractor for the project. IEA is scheduled to commence construction on December 1, 2020 and plans to hire more than 300 craft workers, the majority of whom will be recruited from Houston County and the surrounding area.

“Silicon Ranch is committed to making a positive difference in the communities we serve, and we’re pleased to work with our partners at Green Power EMC and IEA to execute this vision in Houston County,” said Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and Chairman Matt Kisber, who previously served eight years as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development. “I also want to thank Chairman Tommy Stalnaker for his leadership and the Houston County Board of Commissioners for welcoming Silicon Ranch and this project to the community. Based on our company’s experience, I can understand why Georgia remains the number one state for doing business in the United States.”

“Silicon Ranch is truly a leader in solar innovation, and we are honored that they have chosen to make such a substantial capital investment in Houston County,” said Tommy Stalnaker, chairman of the Houston County Board of Commissioners. “We look forward to a productive partnership with Silicon Ranch and hope to expand our relationship in the years to come.”

“I’m excited about Silicon Ranch Corporation’s sizeable investment in Houston County and appreciative of all the work by local leaders and our development partners to bring this project to fruition,” said Sen. Larry Walker (R — Perry). “As Houston County continues to grow, our need for low-cost, sustainable energy will increase, and this project will, no doubt, promote additional economic development in our community. I want to thank Silicon Ranch and Green Power EMC for their commitment to meeting our future energy needs.”

“Many of the world’s largest businesses are making the availability of renewable energy a key factor in their location decisions,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “The commitment by Silicon Ranch and Georgia’s EMCs underscores that we are ready to meet the business requirements of the modern economy.”

“More than 30 EMCs have supported this Project, which will produce enough clean, renewable energy to help power more than 11,000 EMC households,” said Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC. “We’re proud that in addition to providing our members with reliable and affordable solar energy, our work can further support economic development in Houston County.”

[Rainbow solar power]
Rainbow solar power

That’s between two branches of Elko Creek, which eventually flows into the Ocmulgee River, and thus to the Altamaha River and the Atlantic Ocean.


Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!

Three appointments, one subdivision streets, and alcohol @ LCC 2022-05-09

The Lowndes County Commission continues to pretend that accepting streets for a subdivision won’t cost taxpayers anything in future maintenance, nor previously in running water and sewer there. Back in October 2019, when the county accepted infrastructure for Phase V, County Engineer Mike Fletcher said that was “the last phase of Grove Pointe”. Yet here we are with Adopt Resolution Accepting Infrastructure for Grove Pointe Phase V Section 2.

[Beer and Streets]
Beer and Streets

Connecting Grove Pointe to Val Del Road by the Nelson Hill subdivision was planned since at least 2006, and that’s why Simpson Lane and Clyattstone Road got paved. Despite all that, today’s Grove Pointe agenda item is marked “BUDGET IMPACT: N/A”.

Also on the agenda Continue reading