Lewisburg hears proposal for solar power access


Lewisburg water treatment Manager, Randy Johnson, right, receiving AWOP award from WV Bureau of Public Health District Engineer, Chris Farrish.
Lewisburg water treatment Manager, Randy Johnson, right, receiving AWOP award from WV Bureau of Public Health District Engineer, Chris Farrish.

The Lewisburg City Council hosted a presentation by Dan Conant, founder of Solar Hollar, a new WV startup designed to benefit the nonprofit community with access to solar power, at the Tuesday night meeting. Conant presented a unique proposal to provide solar power for nonprofit organizations and municipalities such as the city of Lewisburg. Renewable energy is far from common in West Virginia, Conant said, because of the relatively weak tax incentives in the state for renewable energy. In fact, there are fewer than 100 solar systems in West Virginia. The federal government however does offer solar incentives as tax credits up to 30 percent, yet non-profits cannot receive those benefits because they don’t pay the taxes in the first place.

The solution, according to Conant, is to develop a community-owned LLC to access the credits and then lease the system back to the city or nonprofit organization. Solar installations would be placed on municipal property within two miles of where the electricity is needed. Conant was seeking to first make the City aware of this opportunity and gauge the council’s receptivity before going out into the community.

Mayor Manchester took a poll of the council members to determine whether or not to invite Conant to come back again with further details. The council had questions and concerns primarily about what the cost analysis might be. Council member Josh Baldwin said the pilot program geared to West Virginians sounded interesting, the opportunity is timely and he was intrigued that no up-front money was required from the City to get involved. “It’s hard to wrap your head around, he said, but I’m for it.” The council concurred.

Conant said he is currently working on a website for Solar Hollar, and referred to communitypowernetwork.com as an informative resource for the kind of service he was offering.

In other business:

• The Lewisburg water system was honored with an AWOP (Area-Wide Optimization Program) award presented by Chris Farrish, district engineer with the West Virginia Public Health Department. EPA regulations and the impact on public health are the interests of the department, he said, including water quality violations. The depaitinent studies 132 surface water systems in the state for impurities that impact public health. Lewisburg’s water treatment system is one of only 18 to receive this award. Lewisburg Water Treatment Manager Randy Johnson was awarded the handsome glass plaque for his handling of optimizing filter plant reports as the water system analyzer for Lewisburg.

• In thanking the Boy Scouts of America for their community services contributions to the City, Mayor Manchester and the City Council presented a plaque of recognition to local scout leader Cliff Baker of Troop 70. Baker said community service has always been a central theme of the Boy Scouts. He recounted with pride the many local Eagle Scout service projects throughout the Greenbrier Valley and reminded the Council that the Scouts would be back in another four years.

By Peggy Mackenzie

Public Works Director Mark Carver stated the City had 60 to 100 Scouts working on trail-building projects during the Summit Jubilee week in July. He said they put in a total of 1,664 hours into four trail projects, including Dorie Miller Park, the Confederate Cemetery, Bright Cemetery and the North Court Street Cemetery. They cleared out undergrowth and discovered headstones previously unknown hidden in the heavy foliage. As coordinator for the Scout projects, Carver was impressed with the organization and efficiency of the Scout’s command system.

• The Council approved the appointment of John Hanna as the city’s new Tree Warden, one of whose jobs will be to assess every tree on public property within the city limits for age and condition. The tree warden position is also a prerequisite for the city to access grant funding available through Tree City, USA.

• The Council accepted the resignation of Tim Hofmann from the Parks Commission due to work conflicts. Hill and Hollar shop owner Merrick Tracy was approved to serve out Hofmann’s remaining unexpired term. Tracy has had experience on the Parks Commission having served previously as a member.

• Resolution 427 Lewisburg & Ronceverte Trail Phase III was approved to extend the trailway from Frazier Street in Lewisburg to the entrance to K-Mart on Seneca Trail in Fairlea.

• Resolution 428 was approved acknowledging the City’s concern regarding over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine and its link to an increase in the number of meth labs seized in Greenbrier County. The mayor will send a letter to the legislature encouraging passage of legislation requiring a prescription to purchase medication containing pseudoephedrine.

• Council member Mark Etten reported from the Planning Commission an update on the development of the cineplex theater planned for the hillside property located behind Lowe’s which has had some slowdown owing to stormwater drainage tests that did not bear out as hoped. Etten said Barnette Development must “go back to the drawing board” and seek an alternative location for the theater site.

• Council member Josh Baldwin in his report on the Parks Commission reported on two potential park locations the City has under consideration.

• Police Chief Tim Stover announced the department’s annual D.A.R.E. Car show will return on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Lewisburg.