Holocene release raises concerns

Published 1:08 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

In late April, Raleigh, North Carolina-based Holocene Clean Energy released a press release announcing it will fund improvements to the area surrounding the Charlotte Court House volunteer fire station.
The company announced enhancements to the area surrounding the Charlotte Court House volunteer fire station that would include a concrete driveway and asphalt for the currently rock and gravel parking and staging area, and was intended as a public relations coup.

But the description of the project as being “identified as a high priority by the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors” apparently came as news to many of the board members – especially since late last year Hurricane Michael caused damage to the Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department.

In 2015, Holocene began development on Twittys Creek Solar, LLC, a solar farm located along state Route 59 outside Drake’s Branch. Construction on the project is set to start in a few months.

“The press release issued by the solar company which was printed in The Charlotte Gazette was not based on the board of supervisors,” Chairman Garland Hyde Hamlett Jr. said in an email. “At no time were the members apprised of this until it came out in the news. I will say the board of supervisors supports all the seven fire departments.

“Again, the board of supervisors minus the former chairman (Gary Walker) were not informed of this.”
Walker did not respond to an email in time for this story.
Indeed, Hamlett notes that he represents Drakes Branch and acknowledges that opinions of Holocene’s contribution “could vary.”

“I am gravely concerned as well as a lot of folks from the Drakes Branch area,” he added. “Had the situation been reversed, I’m sure other folks would feel the same way.”

Still, he concludes: “Time heals all wounds. Forgive and move on.”

In a new release on its website, Holocene Executive Partner Stan Allison acknowledged mistakes.
“Recently, we have become aware that one of our efforts to share good news about such benefits may have raised concerns from some community members in the Charlotte Court House, Virginia area” the release said. “(We) stated that the project was a high priority for the … supervisors. This was incorrect, and in fact, a much more urgent need arose last October involving the Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department.

“The Holocene team has many friends and family members who are still dealing with the storm’s effects in Virginia and North Carolina, and we understand the importance of communities working together to rebuild from such natural disasters. In reviewing the press release, we understand that it could be construed as minimizing the significance of the Drakes Branch damage, and we sincerely apologize.

“Our goal in contributing to the enhancement of emergency services in the region is part of our effort to become valued members of the community.”

However, Supervisor Kay Pierantoni, who represents the Wylliesburg / Red Oak District, is disturbed by it all.

“I’m really disheartened by the coverage of the Holocene gift to CCH (Charlotte Courthouse)

Fire Department,” she wrote in an email. “I realize you all received a press release and published it pretty much as submitted. I understand. On face value, a company gave $60,000 to a local fire department which seemed like a generous gesture. Actually, there is a very troubling ‘other side’ to this story.”

She noted that in the company’s release, the project is “identified as a high priority by the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors,” and Walker is quoted saying “we” in referring

to the board of supervisors supporting the project.

“If a company decided to give any donation to any entity in our county, that would be welcomed,” Pierantoni said. “But this donor, certainly by their own press release, tied this gift to direction of the board of supervisors and that is completely false. The one supervisor who was involved, by his own (admission,) directed them to fire department in his district. This is the troubling side to the story.”