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Towns take 'baby steps' toward wind-turbine project

With a governmental green light this summer for a wind-turbine project spanning Monroe and Florida, town officials have been proceeding with “baby steps,” according to Monroe Assessor James Heavey.

In June, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a final order of conditions that allowed the project to commence.

The plan includes 11 wind turbines on the Hoosac Mountain range, which is part of the Appalachian Mountains and an extension of the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Florida and Monroe officials are crafting an agreement (called a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) for project owners, PPM Energy, Inc., of Portland, Ore.

The agreement would establish a graduated tax rate upfront, and it would be in place for the next 15 years, said Heavey.

He said the agreement would be easier on the two towns. “It’s a win-wind agreement,” he said.

“We don’t get as much in tax revenues, but we don’t have to pay consultants $30,000 to $40,000 every two or three years to evaluate property,” he said.

PPM Energy will probably pay less than would be the case if their property – including turbines and other hardware – were revaluated every few years.

Heavey said PPM is currently in the planning stages of the project, and the next step will be the presentation of a final site plan. That would include the direction that the turbines will be facing and where the poles and transmission cables will go.

After this month, the towns will have to meet to reach consensus on the tax agreement, including a dollar amount, Heavey said.

A citizens’ advocacy group, Green Berkshires of Great Barrington, is looking into whether they can appeal the June decision that allowed the project to continue.

For now, Heavey said, the lawyers representing PPM Energy and the towns are saying, “keep moving forward, don’t stop.”

In an email, PPM spokeswoman Jan Johnson said, “We are free to proceed with construction and we are moving forward with our plans to do so.”

By Gregory G. Lewis
WCN Correspondent.

West County News

13 September 2007