Agency lacks expertise to explore ‘Solar City’

Published 11:07 am Wednesday, October 27, 2010

FRANKLIN—Franklin Southampton Economic Development, in a letter to Mayor Jim Councill, said it doesn’t have the staff, technical expertise or resources to analyze Councilman Greg McLemore’s Virginia Solar City Initiative.

“What they’re really saying is they don’t develop concepts like this, that’s not their charter and their mission,” Councill said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “They take a business plan and an existing company and a product, and then find a place for that and help them come into the city; that’s their charter.”

McLemore has said the initiative, which would make Franklin a solar-powered city, could spark tourism and create jobs in the green manufacturing industry.

The City Council voted in August to send the solar city initiative to FSEDI for review.

According to the letter sent to the mayor, FSEDI staff members would consider participating in an evaluation committee for the solar city initiative if the City Council agrees to create such a committee.

Council members plan to discuss the initiative during their retreat this week.

Some council members said they thought the initiative fell within FSEDI’s area.

“Quite frankly, I thought this was something that would go to FSEDI,” Councilman Benny Burgess said. Burgess made the motion in August to forward the initiative to FSEDI.

City Manager June Fleming said there appeared to be “a huge gap” in communication between the City Council and FSEDI.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. McLemore’s concept is getting caught in that, but they’re telling you no and you’re saying you think they could,” she said.