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Massive solar farm in east Dougherty County goes online

ALBANY — The power of the sun was unleashed this week in Dougherty County at a solar facility on Moultrie Road, as the system that has been under construction for months went online.

The massive solar farm began feeding power to a substation across the road for distribution to Georgia Power Co. customers, said a spokesman with NextEra Energy, which is in charge of construction.

“We’re finishing up commission of the inverters, trackers and SCADA (solar supervisory control and data acquisition),” he said.

That work should be completed soon, putting the construction time for the project at about a year.

The 1,200-acre site contains 5,232 rows of support beams for 440,535 solar panels. The panels will rotate through the day to track the sun.

NextEra is constructing a similar facility in Brooks County.

Those projects, along with others in the area, including Mitchell County, are part of Georgia Power Co.’s 177-megawatt Commercial & Industrial Renewable Energy Development Initiative. The plan was announced in April 2018.

The plant near Albany is part of that initiative and will supply 120 megawatts, while one under construction in Mitchell County will provide about 57.5 megawatts of electricity.

The $300 million Dougherty County facility is expected to provide about $10 million in tax revenue over its lifespan.

“We’re pleased to develop this project and advance solar as a part of Georgia Power’s renewable energy development initiative for their commercial and industrial customers,” NextEra spokesperson Lisa Paul said.

The Southern Oak solar development that is under construction is expected to pump $12 million into Mitchell County’s economy in the first 10 years of operation, including tax payments, lease payments to landowners, and wages and benefits to employees.

Property, casualty adjuster responds to former county contractor's claim

ALBANY — A property and casualty adjuster for Underwriters Safety & Claims, the claims administrator for the Dougherrty County Commission, has asked contractor Candace Reese Walters for additional information concerning her claim that the county owes Walters $25,000 for overtime work and attorney’s fees related to work Walters did for the county.

In a letter to Walters dated Nov. 14, Laurie Barczykowski wrote, “In order to complete our evaluation of your claim, we need the following information: receipts/invoices and time cards. As you are aware, this is a government entity claim involving taxpayer funds, and we are obligated to fully document all claims.”

Walters said in a letter that she sent last week to Dougherty County Commissioners and to The Albany Herald that she had not been paid funds owed her after a year of attempting to collect fees Walters said she earned while doing contract public relations work for the county after two deadly storms in 2017. (Her name at that time was Candace Reese; she told The Albany Herald she had gotten married since her work with the county ended.)

County Attorney Spencer Lee told The Herald vetting of Walters’ claims led to a conclusion that she was not owed any money by the county.

Walters’ attorney, Durante Partridge, said in an attachment to her letter to commissioners that current Appeals Court Judge Ken Hodges had promised to work with her attorney to see that she was paid funds owed her. Partridge responded on Walters’ behalf to the letter sent to his client by Underwriters’ Barczykowski.

He wrote:

I am in receipt of your correspondence to my client regarding your request for documentation/communication, with a 24-hour deadline. Unfortunately, we will not do such at this time, as we have been in communication with Attorney Lee, (Dougherty Administrator) Mr. (Michael) McCoy, and even Judge Ken Hodges about the nature of the monies due to my client, for works performed beyond the scope of the agreement.

Accordingly, my client performed around-the-clock services for the county, during the storm and in its aftermath, in excess of the hours contracted. Further, my client set up, and ran, the county’s social media accounts, again none of which was in the agreement, nor was it a work for hire, as there was no work-for-hire agreement in place. Furthermore, her attorney’s fees from the contract, as well as ongoing attorney’s fees, have not been compensated, as we have been at this for over the past year.

Laurie, our frustration is furthered because the county, specifically Mr. McCoy and through Mr. Hodges, agreed to compensate my client for her work product (i.e. access to the Facebook & Twitter Pages she created) and the additional hours she’d worked. This agreement came after my client was threatened with criminal charges being pressed against her, so it was made under stress and duress, to say the least. Moreover, Attorney Lee also acknowledged that my client would be due legal fees per the contract.

Please advise as to whether or not you have had the opportunity to speak with those named above for their take on this matter. Should you need anything further, please contact me directly and not my client. Thank you for your cooperation in advance.

Barczykowski said in her letter to Walters that the “Dougherty County Board of Commissioners has honored the agreement and has paid Envision Global Corporation $19,194.40 for your services. Per your email, you are requesting $25,000 for attorney’s fees, work product and storm communications overtime to be paid by 12/15. No documentation has been submitted for the amount being claimed.”

Polls in Dougherty, Lee counties will be open for three days of early voting during week of Thanksgiving

ALBANY – Albany residents can add one more item to their Thanksgiving week to-do list: Casting a ballot for one of two candidates in the mayoral and Ward VI Albany City Commission runoff election in the days leading up to the holiday.

Early voting in the runoff between incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Albany attorney Kermit “Bo” Dorough will be held on Nov. 25, 26 and 27, according to Dougherty Elections supervisor Ginger Nickerson.

There also is a runoff election for the Ward VI seat on the City Commission in which John Hawthorne faces Demetrius Young.

Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson was uncertain whether the timing of early voting during the week that kicks off the Christmas holiday season in earnest will help or hinder turnout.

“I hope people look at it as a convenience,” she said. “While they’re out and about, running around, they can vote.”

Early voting is from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. each day in Room 220 of the Government Center building at 222 Pine Ave., during the three-day period. On the Dec. 3 election, voters should cast ballots at their precinct.

Some voters have indicated interest in the race, Nickerson said.

“I can say we have fielded some phone calls, so we know people are aware it’s taking place,” she said.

Voters who did not register in time to vote in the Nov. 5 election are ineligible to vote in the mayoral and commission runoff contests. However, all registered voters who live in the city or Ward VI can vote even if they did not vote in the in the Nov 5 election.

Voters can check eligibility online by visiting https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov.

On Nov. 5 Hubbard received the most votes in the seven-person mayoral race, finishing with 3,501, or 30.25%. Second-place finisher Dorough received 3,206 votes, or 27.7%, of the 11,572 ballots cast.

James Pratt Jr. finished third with 1,146 votes, followed by Tracy Taylor with 641 votes, Omar Salaam with 189 votes and Edward Allen, who received 91 votes.

Smith and Young are vying for a four-year term as the replacement for Ward VI City Commissioner Tommie Postell, who did not seek re-election.

On Nov. 5, Young came out on top on election night with 705 votes, or 44.71%. Hawthorne finished just behind with 692 votes – 43.88% – to force the runoff election between the two. Leroy Smith received 177 votes, or 11.22%.

Lee County voters also return to the polls in a runoff for a special election in state House District 152 to choose between Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn and Bill Yearta, the former mayor of Sylvester. The winner will serve out the final year of the term of Ed Rynders, who resigned earlier this year.

The district also includes Worth County and a portion of Sumter County.

Early voting in Lee County also is Nov. 25, 26 and 27, from 8:15a.m.-5 p.m. each day, at 100 Starksville Ave. North, Suite C.

Nearly 26 percent of voters cast ballots on Nov. 5, Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said. That was a good turnout, considering that only 18 percent of registered voters came out for the May 2018 general primary contests.

“It would be nice if everybody turned out again and some of their friends joined them,” she said. “We hope the regulars we have for every election will turn out to vote that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Smithville voters also will return to the polls to choose between incumbent Mayor Jack Smith and Vincent Cutts in a runoff contest there.

Staff Photo: Carlton Fletcher 

Restaurateur and Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher, right, said farewell to regular customers like Willie Greer of Dawson on Sunday with a special deal on meals at BJ’s II restaurant at 2004 Oglethorpe Blvd. Fletcher has sold the eatery to New Beginnings Church Pastor Solomon Loud, who will re-open the establishment on Dec. 1 as Flossie’s Soul Food Restaurant. “Our new restaurant (BJ’s III on South Slappey) is doing well, and we’re about to bring steaks and a carving station back to BJ’s (on Dawson Road), so I decided to make the deal with Pastor Loud,” Fletcher said. “He’s been in my life for a long time now, and I believe he has a true vision. This was almost like a match made in heaven for both of us.”