MARSEILLES – Mike Arndt walked away from city hall Wednesday evening without the Enterprise Zone amendment he is seeking for a wind farm in a three-township area southwest of the community.
Only because the Marseilles City Council tabled the issue until the next slated meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 21, while it attempts to find benefit in it for the municipality.
“I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out,” Finance Commis-sioner Bob Davis told Arndt after the issue was set aside.
“I understand,” said Arndt as he left the city chambers.
Arndt, senior development manager with Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC, is seeking to include the company’s new multi-million dollar wind farm in the La Salle-Grundy County 12.5-acre Enterprise Zone.
The approximately 15-acre zone extends from south of Ottawa to Marseilles and Seneca in La Salle County, and east through Grundy County to Morris. The Grand Ridge Wind Farm would add about 2.5 acres to the zone.
Enterprise Zones are meant to stimulate economic growth and revitalization in economically depressed areas of the state. Businesses within the zone can be eligible for special state and local tax incentives, including exemption from sales tax on building materials.
Inclusion would exempt the GRWF from the state sales tax on construction materials and supplies, but not from property taxes.
Commissioner Jim Hollenbeck questioned payment of an administrative fee to the city of Ottawa, which oversees the Enterprise Zone.
He said a portion of the administrative fee is to go for first responder service, such as fire and ambulance services. He failed to see how Marseilles would benefit from the fee going to Ottawa, which, as a result, would become the first responder in GRWF emergencies even in the Marseilles fire and ambulance protection districts.
Arndt noted the wind farm will be in the fire districts of several communities, including Marseilles, Ottawa, Grand Ridge, and Seneca.
“I feel this is a slap in the face when Marseilles has a highly trained and qualified fire department and a 24-hour-staffed ambulance service,” Hollenbeck said.
Arndt pointed out the city of Marseilles will benefit from the wind farm in that the company has an office on Main Street with a staff of four, one from Ottawa. Local trades will build the towers. Tourist dollars will be another benefit, he said.
“We have several local laborers,” he said. “We have a $40 million contract to build this thing. We even have union porta-potties and union water on the job.”
Arndt said he talked to Marseilles Fire Department personnel earlier this year, but admitted he did not inspect the department’s equipment.
“It didn’t match up?” Hollebeck asked, referring to the Ottawa Fire Department equipment.
Arndt reiterated the benefits to Marseilles from the GRWF in construction wages and tourist activities.
“Invenergy tries to reach out to the communities,” he said. “We’re rehabbing a historic building in Bishop Hill. We’re open to helping any community we’re involved in.”
He said the building was a vintage harness shop, and that Bishop Hill has about 100 residents.
The Seneca Village Council unanimously approved the Enterprise Zone amendment wihout comment during its regular meeting Tuesday evening.
Seneca will directly benefit from property taxes paid by the GRWF in that both the local grade and high school districts extend into Brookfield Township.
Marseilles Grade School will not receive property taxes from the wind farm, however, as the district is entirely within the city limits.
About 66 wind turbines will be included in the three-township area during the first phase of the project. Each turbine will generate about $12,000 to $14,000 in property taxes. Individual landowners will receive about $600 per month in rent for each turbine located on their property.
The first of the wind turbines will arrive on site in January, with the wind farm to be operational by late spring to early summer. The project will eventually contain 500 to 600 turbines, each consisting of a 262-foot tower and 143-foot blades.
At approximately $150 million, the GRWF is the second largest wind-based project in the United States.
By Jo Ann Hustis
8 November 2007
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