TIPTON — Before a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday, the Tipton County Council approved a 10-year tax abatement for a proposed wind farm in the eastern part of the county.
When Council President Madonna Alderson asked those in attendance who supported the E-On Climate & Renewables project, everyone raised their hand, except Jim Ashley.
Ashley said he was concerned the wind farm would have a negative impact on property values.
Like Ashley, council members asked questions about the project before approving its 10-year tax abatement in a 7-1 vote.
Councilman Brad Nichols said he saw merits in the project, from wind energy ending the dependence of the U.S. on foreign oil to benefits for land owners.
He proposed a 7-year tax abatement. By decreasing the abatement by three years, Nichols said, it would cost the company an additional $921,000 in property taxes.
“We have to watch what we’re giving away and what we’re getting,” Nichols said.
Nichols inquired if another wind company would come to Tipton County and offer the county a better deal.
The $921,000 represented half a percent of the total $175 million investment by E-On in Tipton County, he said.
“Is seven years versus 10 years a deal breaker?” he asked.
Andy Melka, project manager for E-On, said it could mean the end of the project in Tipton County.
Every wind farm in Indiana has been granted a 10-year tax abatement, Melka said, adding the $1.2 million the company has agreed to pay as part of an economic development agreement is a good deal.
Nichols said the federal government provides tax credits to wind energy companies.
Paul Bowman, a vice president with E-On, explained the federal incentives allow the utility companies to get power at a lower price.
“It’s difficult to build these projects because the price of energy has come down as a result of the recession,” Bowman said. “We took the tax abatement into consideration when we considered this project.”
The first phase of the Wildcat Wind Farm project is to be located in Tipton, Grant and Madison counties. Tipton has joined Grant County in approving the 10-year tax abatement, and Madison County officials failed to approve the abatement earlier this month. Its county council is expected to consider the request in July.
If Madison County doesn’t pull through with an abatement, Bowman said more of the project could be located in Tipton County and the Madison County portion could be moved to Grant County.