Solar Project Will Revitalize Our Struggling Community

Ripley and South Ripley need the South Ripley Solar Project — desperately. As a community leader, not capitalizing on this economic opportunity would be a devastating blow to the town of Ripley and the surrounding community. As a business owner, rejecting a chance for economic growth will broadcast to other industries that Chautauqua County and the town of Ripley are not open for business, thus deterring potential future investment in our area.

I co-manage Meeder’s Restaurant in Ripley, which is the central piece of Ripley’s business sector, and I previously owned two other local businesses — Twin B Farms and RJB Construction. I have lived in Ripley all my life and have seen Ripley’s economy slowly crumble over the years. People are leaving the area in search of more opportunity elsewhere. The South Ripley Solar Project will be a lifeline for our struggling community by providing additional property taxes and an economic boost that will benefit us all through improved schools and infrastructure.

I also served on the Ripley School District board for decades, and I watched as our area school districts struggled to invest in their teachers, students, and facilities with the current level of funding. The South Ripley Solar Project will be a lifeline to the Sherman and Ripley School Districts. It is commonly accepted that communities with well-funded and high-performing school districts attract new residents.

The South Ripley Solar Project will provide Ripley, Chautauqua County, and the Ripley and Sherman School Districts 30 years of guaranteed, stable revenue. Closing our doors on this project will not only directly laugh in the face of economic development and hurt our economic welfare, it will also deprive us of a good community steward.

When our state shut down due to COVID-19, Ripley was hit hard. Early on ConnectGen reached out to me to find ways they could best help Ripley and South Ripley in our time of need. I worked with them to provide Meeder’s gift cards to the families of children in the Ripley School District who are eligible for the school lunch program, a program designed to make sure children who live below the poverty line can eat lunch every day. Because ConnectGen stepped up and helped our community, even when they had no duty to do so, 67 families were able to sit down and have a hot meal together during some severely troubling times. On top of that, they’re following up on that effort to provide another round of donations during this holiday season.

This is the type of new business we need to be welcoming into Ripley – one that wants to build a partnership and actively work towards making Ripley and South Ripley a better place to live and provide the economic the backbone to help the community grow. Don’t make a snap judgment because a handful of vocal project opponents are feeding you misinformation. Visit the project website – https://www.southripleysolar.com/ – or the recently launched project Facebook page – South Ripley Solar Project. Arm yourself with the real facts and consider how millions of dollars in additional tax revenue could absolutely bring Ripley and South Ripley back to life. It’s not often that a chance like this comes knocking — it would be unthinkable to let it pass us by.

Bob Bentley is a Ripley resident.


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