The Union Recorder

January 18, 2013

CSH redevelopment authority speaks on Craig Center, solar farm

From staff reports
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Employee and family concern about the James B. Craig Nursing Center closing inclined the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) to act. 

The authority drafted a letter addressed to Commissioner Frank Berry of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) requesting immediate postponement of the Craig Center closing scheduled at the end of the year. CSHLRA executive director Mike Couch is waiting on signatures from the Milledgeville City Council, Baldwin County Commission, Rep. Rusty Kidd and Sen. Burt Jones.

According to the letter, CSHLRA believes some of the seriously developmentally disabled patients cannot thrive or survive in a group home or private nursing home environment.

Maintaining jobs and care is the “right thing to do.”

Couch said the moral aspect drove the authority's action. Numerous vacant group homes at CSH could offer a better solution for involved parties and the DBHDD.

This week the CSH authority also unveiled a concise vision statement focusing on job creation, education and health related projects. Green energy and business incubation initiatives will tie into the yet-to-be completed campus master plan.

The board should choose a partner firm to help establish a CSH roadmap based off potential market pull.

CSHLRA member David Sinclair said the master plan works like a sales pitch at state and federal levels.

Couch said the authority couldn't force something to happen, but only respond to the market. Out of 20 projects, only three or four need to stick to create jobs.

Available CSH acreage could harbor a future community solar farm. Sinclair said a private entity hired consultants working towards grabbing a piece of Georgia Power's solar block.

When and if the state utility approves the request of up to 20 megawatts, there will be movement, according to Sinclair.

The unnamed private entity would invest and install around 500 kilowatts to start. Citizens could jump in by buying panels.

Theoretically, community stakeholders receive bill deductions based on power produced.

Georgia power would purchase power at the 12 cents per kilowatt-hour market rate.

Sinclair said on campus panel assembly creates jobs. Required building demolition to make space for the solar arrays brings employees to help recycle the structures, as well.

Currently, the City of Milledgeville backs the redevelopment authority. Couch said prompting the state to reallocate funds back into the CSHLRA would add a necessary funding mechanism.

The next CSHLRA meeting is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20 on the fourth floor of the Powell Building.

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