Madison County leaders turned down a six-figure payment from the developer of a 19-windmill project in three southern townships, citing a need for a comprehensive county policy on how to handle payments from windmill developers.
The county had been negotiating a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Citizens Airtricity Energy, the company that plans to build a 28.5-megawatt windmill farm in Eaton, Stockbridge and Madison this summer.
The county’s share of the PILOT would have been $500 per megawatt, or $14,250 per year. The payments would continue for 16 years and increase with inflation. The county estimated the total payments would have been nearly $250,000After three hours of discussion Tuesday morning, supervisors instead voted to forgo the money. The county’s $500 share .
Madison County’s portion of sales tax to stay 4 percent will be split among the other taxing jurisdictions, which will now share $8,000 per megawatt.
The windmill debate has dominated conversations among county leaders for the past two weeks. Some vocal opponents said the county shouldn’t have been a part of the negotiations at all, since previous windmill projects in Fenner and Madison were built without the county taking a portion of the windmill payments.
“We became opportunist and saw this as a monetary thing,” said Nelson Supervisor Dick Williams. “We need to quell our appetites . . . (and) show a little prudence and restraint.”
Tuesday’s vote was a relief to supervisors from Eaton, Stockbridge and Madison, who worried that any further delay would put the entire project in jeopardy. Airtricity has already spent $1.5 million to put in new roads for the 3,500-acre wind farm, said Eaton Supervisor Dave Puddington.
“I think we did the right thing here,” said Fenner Supervisor Russ Cary.
But the vote wasn’t unanimous. Oneida Supervisors Don Behr and Mike DeBottis were in favor of the proposed payment plan. DeBottis said any new economic development activity should benefit all county residents, relating revenue from the windmills to sales tax dollars the new Lowe’s in Oneida is ringing up for county coffers.
“Anything that resides in our county that generates revenue should be shared across the county,” DeBottis said. “I think we’re shortchanging our taxpayers.”
Cazenovia Supervisor Liz Moran disagreed, citing state law that allows windmill developers to keep turbines off the property tax rolls for 15 years to encourage green energy development.
“There is difference between Wal-Mart and a windmill,” Moran said. “State law subsidizes windmill projects so they will come in. They’re not meant to be self-supporting. They need to be supported by all levels of government.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Rocky DiVeronica, who was previously the most vocal proponent of securing a county share of the PILOT, also voted to forgo the county’s share.
“I went with the direction of the board,” DiVeronica said. “We are pro-wind power. We proved it today.”
DiVeronica said he planned to create an ad hoc committee to create a county policy on wind power, to be chaired by Oneida Supervisor Jim Rafte. Members will include Brookfield Supervisor Loren Corbin, Georgetown Supervisor Russ Hammond, Sullivan Supervisor John Becker and Fenner Supervisor Russ Cary.
By Alaina Potrikus
14 February 2007
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