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Turbines mean revenue windfall for townships

BLUE KNOB – The $3,000 annual municipal host fee paid by Gamesa Energy USA is providing a financial boost to townships in the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm.

Now, officials are looking for ways to keep more money in taxpayer pockets or use the windfall to improve services.

With the $69,000 coming from Gamesa, supervisors in Juniata Township, Blair County, are taking a bold step: Effective Jan. 1, the 2.5-mill municipal real estate tax will be eliminated.

“There are people who don’t like the windmills and those who do,” Supervisor Dave Kane said. “Why shouldn’t everybody get at least something out of them?”

Kane estimated the decision will save the average property owner $30 to $40 per year.

Meanwhile, this year’s windmill revenue was used to stabilize and pave Lilly Road – the connecting route with Washington Township’s Mountain Road at the county line.

Washington Township’s windmill revenue totals $42,000.

While officials in the Cambria community say they can’t yet eliminate a tax, the money expected during the next three decades will be used for a host of improvements, Supervisor Ray Guzic said.

“We’re going to keep taxes down so everyone benefits,” he said.

Officials have dedicated $3,000 to pay for increased police patrols, while much of the money will go toward improving roads, Guzic said.

During the next three to five years, Washington officials will spend $150,000 on road improvements rather than the usual $40,000 to $50,000 available prior to the windmill revenue.

“Hopefully we can get some of these people out of the dirt and dust,” Guzic said.

Portage Township has fielded numerous residents’ suggestions – including some from individuals who want the money to be used for a municipal police force. But the revenue appears to be headed elsewhere.

“I’d like to drop taxes by 1 mill,” Supervisor James Kovach said. “But roads are going to be a top priority. We want to pave the roads around the windmills and take care of other roads.”

Portage Township’s windmill revenue is $69,000 annually.

Cresson Township has received revenue for seven turbines. While there has been no formal discussion among officials, board Chairman Scott Decoskey said the revenue will probably be made part of the general fund.

“It will probably go to keep us from raising taxes,” he said.

By Kathy Mellott

The Tribune-Democrat

19 August 2007