November 9, 2007

MARSEILLES: Council balks at wind farm tax breaks

Approval for placing the Grand Ridge wind farm in the Ottawa-area enterprise zone was sidelined by the Marseilles City Council Wednesday.

The approval, which had seemed a sure thing, was tabled after Marseilles officials learned from a Wednesday Times news story that the city of Ottawa would receive a payment from Chicago-based Invenergy, which is building the wind farm.

Placement in the enterprise zone, which also includes Seneca and La Salle and Grundy counties, would provide Invenergy with sales and use tax breaks for construction of the 66-turbine wind farm south of the Illinois river. If approved by all five governments, Inverergy would pay Ottawa an amount equal to 20 percent of its state sales tax savings. But the other governments would receive nothing. Ottawa Commissioner Ed Whitney estimated his city could collect $1.5 million over several years from the fee.

Michael Arndt, the Invenergy senior development manager, explained to the Marseilles Council the fee is customary to an enterprise zone’s administrator, which in this case is Ottawa.

Arndt said the fee would cover emergency response services, including high altitude rescue, from Ottawa, even though the project area is served by multiple fire service agencies.

Marseilles Commissioner Jim Hollenbeck, also assistant fire chief with the Marseilles Fire Protection District, said the arrangement was “kind of a slap in the face” to Marseilles.

Arndt said Marseilles would receive indirect benefits such as jobs for local tradesmen hired to construct the $40 million project. He also said there were possible tourism benefits from visitors to the project who would stop in Marseilles to dine and shop. Additionally, he said Invenergy, which opened an office in Marseilles at 521 Main St., later may play a role in some local projects. He cited plans for the company to help restore a building in the historic Bishop Hill community in Henry County.

Officials said the issue would be re-examined.

“I’m sure that we’ll probably be able to work something out,” said Commissioner Bob Davis.

“I fully understand,” Arndt replied.

By Charles Stanley

The Times

8 November 2007

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