MALONE – Lingering hard feelings over negotiations for wind-farm-tax agreements last month may lead Franklin County to create a planning department.
The five-party payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal reached in September involves the county, the Chateaugay Central School District, the towns of Bellmont and Chateaugay and Noble Environmental Power of Connecticut.
Noble is building Noble Bellmont Windpark, with 14 turbines, and Noble Chateaugay Windpark, with 72 turbines.
Combined, the two facilities are to generate 129 megawatts of power.
The parties agreed that Noble will pay $8,000 per megawatt. The two towns, as host communities, would split $5,000 of that, while the other $3,000 would be divided between the school, the county and the towns.
Chateaugay Central would get 65 percent, the towns would split 20 percent, and the county would receive the final 15 percent.
At the same time, a separate negotiation for $1,000 per megawatt of power created an economic-development fund that will be administered by the county’s Industrial Development Agency.
Thursday, when IDA Executive Director Brad Jackson came before the County Legislature’s Economic Planning and Development Committee, he was criticized for not doing enough to look out for the county’s interest at the negotiating table.
Saranac Lake Democrat Timothy Burpoe said legislators thought Jackson was supposed to be the county’s representative in the room.
Burpoe said higher megawatt figures could have been obtained with a tougher stance against Noble and the towns.
But because a deadline was imposed to reach the deal quickly, Burpoe said, he and some other legislators felt pressure to settle for a deal even though the county ended up with the smallest share. Jackson said his Board of Directors told him his job was to bring the parties to the negotiating table but to stay out of the actual talks, and that’s what he did.
He said his agency’s interest was strictly narrowed to getting the economic-development fund started so the IDA can use it to finance projects to attract more business to the county.
Burpoe countered that Franklin County is in his job title and that its welfare should be the first priority, adding that maybe it is the IDA Board that needs reminding since its members are appointed to their posts by legislators.
Jackson said PILOT negotiations are really something a Planning Department should handle.
But Franklin County is one of three counties in New York that doesn’t have one.
He said a planner would be the right person to advise the county about its interests rather than the IDA.
“Then I propose that the time has come to form a task force or a planning board to step in,” said District 2 Legislator Daniel Crippen (D-Burke).
Jackson said he believes a Planning Department “is a county’s operation center. Legislators can come to the planning director to talk about these inter-agency issues.
“It’s time for that type of expertise to advise you through all of this.”
By Denise A. Raymo
18 October 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding