Newspaper Archive of
The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
September 18, 2019     The Monroe County Reporter
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September 18, 2019

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September 18, 2019 Page 7A :, lRE13orter By Diane Glidewell Gerry Kilgore owns Sun- catcher of Atlanta and has been providing solar power to customers throughout Georgia and beyond since 1983. He has worked with most of the utility compa- nies in the state, including many municipalities, but he said he has never had as bad an experience as he did with the city of Forsyth. He installed solar panels on Casfleberry Drug Com- pan ; right across the street from the Forsyth Welcome Center, but the city refused to let the owner turn on the $42,000 system after it was installed. Suncatcher had already installed solar panels on Jep Castleberry's home, which is in Monroe County but not in Forsyth city limits and is served by Central Georgia EMC, and both Kilgore and Castleberry were pleased with the job. When Scott Tyree, who had bought Castleberry Drug from Castleberr); expressed interest in putting solar panels on the building in 2016, Casfleberry recom- mended Suncatcher. Tyree and Kilgore quickly reached an agreement on the job. Kilgore said he enjoyed installing the solar system at Castleberry's home, liked Forsyth and looked forward to spending time doing an- other job there. He sent his electrician, Paul Thomas, to get the proper permits from the city in March 2016 before Suncatcher started the job. He told the lady at the city office that he needed a permit to install solar pan- els. He was surprised that she didn't give him a form to fill out. He paid the $75 she required in cash and she gave him a receipt but nothing else. Suncatcher finished installing the system, and Kilgore went to the city to schedule an inspection before tuming it on. He waited about two weeks, and there was still no inspection. He was told City Manager Janice Hall was out of town, as she had been when Suncatcher requested the permit. Kilgore met with two men representing the city; he doesn't remember their names. He said one man said very little, but the shorter man was incredibly rude. When he told Kilgore, "We can't take any more so- lar" Kilgore tried to explain that this was a relatively small system and would not have a great impact on the city's electric services. The man said, "Just let us pull electricity out of the building and you provide it all then." When Kilgore asked the man to walk over to the building and see the system, he told the other man to bring a lock to lock it down. When they got to Castle- berry Drug Company, the short man said, "You've got the solar system before the panel. You're stealing elec- tricity!" As Kilgore tried to show him how that was not the case, he told the other man to lock down the solar system. The man representing the city told Kilgore he was taking money out of his pocket. He said the man didn't seem to understand the electrical system well enough to see where he put the meter. Kilgore said the system was designed to run the lights and other smaller draws on power but not all of the air conditioning for the building. Kilgore said the smirk with which the man delivered his com- ments was very immature for an adult. "He couldn't wait to get in a room and tell me what I did wrong" said Kilgore. "I wasn't hiding. I was working right across the street with the permit taped to the front door. He said, 'You're not tuming it on in my town.' You would think he owned the power compan g' Suncatcher tried to get back in touch with Hall un- til early 2017, but she would not return calls. "She bailed out and turned it over to these guys" said Kilgore. Kilgore said he has worked with almost all of the power companies in Georgia and has never been treated like he was in Forsyth. He had two other individuals ask him for quotes on putting solar panels on their homes in Forsyth. He told them he would love to do the work but there was no way they could get permits, and they didn't. "It's an embarrassing situation, really ugly,' said Kflgore. "I felt really bad when I got done" He explained that there was no way he could take down the panels and re-sell them; so there was noth- ing to do but let Tyree take the loss. He said he hated it both because it is not how he does business and because Tyree was so nice throughout the ordeal. "They just ran him out of town ' said Kilgore. "This guy didn't want us around:' He said that he has put up thousands of solar sys- tems over the last 35 years, many of them in small Georgia towns, including Add, Burlington and Jef- fersonville, and has never been treated like he was in Forsyth. Many times the of- ficials in small towns didn't know a lot about solar and bombarded him with ques- tions, which he was glad to answer. Kilgore said that he is always learning more and now has a way to turn the power inverter off so that selling power back to For- syth would not even be an option if that is what most worries the city adminis- trators. He said the solar system at Castleberry Drug Company could be turned on and should work fine after cleaning off the glass. It was only on for 10 min- utes to calibrate and still has a 25-year warranty. It has even weathered two severe storms since it was installed. "It will kick right off,' said Kilgore. "I thought every- thing was going to be fine." He said he loves what he does in the solar business, prides himself on treating people right, from employ- ees to customers, and can provide many references from customers in a 50- mile radius of Forsyth But his experience with Forsyth is it's the "worst city in the U.S:' Asked for comment, Mayor Eric Wilson said he didn't want to perpetuate the story about the city's handling of Casfleberry's --7- effort to add solar panels. "'" He called the original story, which appeared in last weel s edition before Kilgo- re contacted the newspaper, a "one-sided smear': Wilson said that allowing a con- sumer to generate power from solar pands puts a burden on all the other cus- ': tamers of the company that ' provides power, like the city of Forsyth, because equip- , ment and manpower must,: be maintained to serve all,; - customers. Wilson said .; : when the city is ready to - announce a solar initiative it will call Macon media, not the Reporter. Meeting All Your Insurance Needs Auto * Home Life. Business Personal Umbrella Policies Let us show you how much we can save you on your insurance. 57 S. Jane Pennington Lee St. Forsyth, GA 478-994-0850 783 DEAN PATRICK RD, OCTOBER t1-13, 18"20, 512 ADMISSION t0CUST GROVE, GA 30248 25-27, & 31 510 FOR GROUPS 10+ www.TRA I ILTOHE L L om Continued from Front in those recordings; she said they were better when council met in the old city hall. She said they quit doing them because the audio was so poor. Wilson said he thinks more people will watch the live streaming and the archive of it. Council passed a mo- tion to livestream its meetings and put them on Facebook. Stroud then asked Hall who would do the record- ing, and she said she would have to figure that out but that it would have to be done some way so that it could be heard. Council member Greg Goolsby said he had two calls from people about the articles on Forsyth's solar power policy, but he was perplexed because he thought the city was re- viewing its policy on solar and hadn't decided. In her Manager's Report, Hall said John Hewitt and Michael Leverett would be presenting some information to council after Oct. 1 on the utility rate study that council agreed to pay them $8,000-10,000 to do. It should include some op- tions for council to consider on solar power. -4- o STAY IN Fo P.SYT H 'S U LT ! MAT E D E S T I N AT !I O N Whether in town for a Mary Persons football game or the holidays, there's no better place to stay in Forsyth than The CityLine Loft. 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