By: Stephen Bartlett
August 23, 2006
ELLENBURG – Wind turbines will soon be blowing cash into Ellenburg.
Under an agreement signed this week, Clinton County, the Town of Ellenburg and Northern Adirondack Central School will receive money yearly to help fund needed projects, while some residents may see a decrease in taxes.
And while the result is more than 50 wind turbines, which opponents say are a blight on the Adirondack landscape, supporters say the venture is an economic boost that’s also environmentally friendly.
“Every time they are turning and generating electricity, that means a coal-burning plant doesn’t have to operate,” said Ellenburg Town Councilor Richard Pearson. “It is clean energy, and it is not polluting, which is good, especially when you look at how the Adirondacks have been affected by acid rain. This is going to change that – not tomorrow, but it will help change that.”
The Ellenburg Town Council signed an agreement Monday with Noble Environmental Power to create Ellenburg Wind Park on land straddling the border separating Clinton and Ellenburg. The plan calls for 54 wind turbines, with work starting next month.
Ellenburg officials are also continuing to work with Horizon Wind Energy, though that company doesn’t plan to begin constructing its wind turbines until sometime next year. It would like to set up 20 turbines.
The agreement with Noble came after a process that began more than two years ago when Ellenburg enacted laws allowing wind turbines.
Under the contract, for the next 15 years Noble will make payments in lieu of taxes in the amount of around $486,000 yearly.
The funds are to be split between Clinton County, the Town of Ellenburg and Northern Adirondack Central School.
Ellenburg would receive about $165,240 yearly, and the county $58,320. NACS will get about 54 percent of the yearly total.
“If something happens where the wind company defaults or something is not working properly, we can have them (turbines) taken down at their expense,” said Pearson.
The funds the Town of Ellenburg will receive will be placed in the general fund to offset taxes and fund special projects.
“Our infrastructure has not been worked on in years, and now we have the money,” said Pearson, who supported the project from the beginning and even wanted turbines on his own property. “Unfortunately,” he said, “I am in the (Adirondack) Park.”
He pointed out that the project has also long been supported by local farmers who are struggling to make a living.
“A lot of the farmers are the ones getting these turbines on their property,” Pearson said. “They receive money every year for having windmills on their property, and we all know farmers these days are not really making money.”
He said Ellenburg will receive another $243,000 annually for 15 years for agreeing to be a host community for wind turbines.
“After 15 years, this will all have to be renegotiated.”
Finally, the town receives $54,000 up front, or $1,000 per turbine, as a bonus for allowing special projects in Ellenburg.
Some of the projects town officials are looking to begin with the funds are renovating athletic fields and replacing lighting, though they plan to seek public input on how to spend the money.
Ellenburg officials also want to establish a paid EMS service, possibly by joining with a neighboring town. Finding individuals to volunteer for such work during the day is difficult, Pearson said, and the funds from the wind turbines will help establish a paid service at no cost to taxpayers.
“The benefit to the town, when you add it all up, is about $462,240 every year,” he said.
“We intend on taking some of that money and putting it toward taxes. The Town of Ellenburg will see a drastic reduction in their taxes.”
Pearson admitted that coming to this point has been an “up and down road.”
Many residents were opposed to wind turbines when the conversation first began, with some concerned about noise and others the visual impact.
Councilors had many sleepless nights as they debated the proposal in their own minds, Pearson said.
“We are changing the face of our community, and it wasn’t done lightly,” he said.
But, ultimately, he said, the pros far outweighed the cons.
And Pearson thinks the public largely agrees, though he knows of some people still opposed to the project and stresses they have a right to be heard.
“What people fail to realize is that the wind blows all the time,” Pearson said. “We have to break away from coal and natural gas and can’t keep gobbling up our natural resources.
“This is another way of doing it, and I felt this was something we have to do as a society.”
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