WAMPSVILLE – Madison County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Rocky DiVeronica chose tow bow to the will of his fellow supervisors and vote against the county taking a share of the payment in lieu of taxes revenue expected from the latest wind farm endeavor.
“I went with the direction of the board; I usually do,” he said.
He had previously been an advocate for the county getting involved because he wanted to put the revenue toward the upcoming communication tower project.
A company called Airtricity has been working on an agreement with the Towns of Stockbridge, Eaton and Madison. The company has agreed to pay $8,000 per megawatt of electrical power as a PILOT to the participating towns and schools.
The resolution put to the board of supervisors would have given the county $500 per megawatt and a percentage of the consumer price index, or inflation over the first 15 years of the project.
The participating schools and towns were to split the remaining $7,500 per megawatt.
State law exempts wind power companies from paying property taxes for the first 15 years of operation but also allows for taxing jurisdictions to request a PILOT during that time.
The county could have received $245,214 over the 15 year term of the PILOT.
An amendment presented by Eaton Supervisor David Puddington brought the amount the county would receive to zero.
And Nelson Supervisor Richard Williams added an amendment so that in signing the agreement with Airtricity the county would relinquish its share to the other Madison County jurisdictions on the agreement.
“The lion’s share of the impact is to the immediate area, not only the participating landowners, but the neighboring landowners throughout the town,” said Lincoln Supervisor Doug Holdridge. “And the town staff itself as they provided services to support the project during construction and long-term operation.”
Madison Supervisor George Turner explained that it was the town that put in a mile and a half of road that will now need to be maintained to accommodate the project. And that road had to be built quicker than originally intended and to different specifications.
Other supervisors disagreed and said there was an impact to the county and maybe it should get more of the PILOT than what was being offered.
“It seems the county is affected more than that and should get more,” said Oneida Supervisor Don Behr.
County supervisors have been at odds over whether it was appropriate for the county to get involved at all even though the law was changed in 2002 to allow the county to do so.
“When the county takes a share of a PILOT they facilitate and augment the project,” Williams said. “I am not seeing what we did-became opportunists, it’s all about how much money we can take.”
Many said that because the county was not involved in the previous Fenner and Madison wind farm projects it was assumed that the county would not be involved in this one. But those two projects were before the law changed in 2002.
“In the past the county has provided some guidance and resources to the Fenner and Madison projects, but has not received any type of remuneration for that whatsoever,” Holdridge said.
Most supervisors agreed there was a lack of communication on everyone’s part.
Supervisors involved from the beginning said more information could have been brought to the county.
Proponents of the county receiving a share noted the “parochialism” on the part of those town supervisors who did not want the county involved.
“I think wind energy is the wave of the future-any revenue generated should go to everyone,” said Oneida Supervisor Michel DeBottis. “To say we shouldn’t get a piece of that to save parochial interests-this is really the crumbs at the table, we should take what we can get.”
From the beginning those opposed to the county receiving a share of the PILOT have said that a policy needed to be enacted before the county tried to get involved in any wind farm projects.
“The negotiators did get ahead of the process,” said Cazenovia Supervisor Elizabeth Moran. “I agree that we should walk away and look to develop a policy.”
And DiVeronica plans to do just that.
“I think our problem was we didn’t look far enough ahead to put a policy together,” he said.
He has chosen who will be on the ad hoc committee to work on that policy.
The committee will be chaired by James Rafte (Oneida), and will also include Russell Hammond (Georgetown), Russell Cary (Fenner), John Becker (Sullivan) and Loren Corbin (Brookfield).
“I picked a committee to put that in place,” DiVeronica said. “There won’t be any misunderstandings next time.”
By Leeanne Root
Dispatch Staff Writer
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