No action was taken by Gray County commissioners Thursday morning to establish a reinvestment zone concerning a proposed wind farm by T. Boone Pickens, a Roberts County rancher and Dallas businessman.
County Judge Richard Peet was absent from the 9 a.m. meeting in the second-floor courtroom of the county courthouse. Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Wright chaired the meeting.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Gary Willoughby and Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Wheeley each said they owned property within the proposed reinvestment zone and wished to learn more about the proposal and about the propriety of their voting on the issue before taking action. The two comprised half of the total number of votes possible, forestalling any possible action by commissioners Thursday morning.
A reinvestment zone, once called an enterprise zone, is an area in which businesses could apply for potential tax abatements if they establish a facility within the zone, according to County Judge Richard Peet in an interview earlier this year.
Possible tax abatements which might be granted to businesses locating within a reinvestment zone can vary widely, Peet said. Abatements could range from 0 to 100 percent over a time span of up to 10 years.
Taxing entities which create reinvestment zones may or may not award such abatements, and may also require specific situations such as a minimum number of employees to be hired and maintained by the business.
A public hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday on the proposed reinvestment zone drew comments from two individuals before commissioners decided to take no action on the issue.
Kathleen Greene, a lifelong resident of Gray County and widow of former Gray County Commissioner Jim Greene, spoke against the proposed zone.
“I’m hoping that you will not grant this,” she said. “I think this will be a cost to Gray County more than a help.”
Greene voiced concern over possible costs to the county in connection with the proposed wind farm, such as road maintenance, and said that the county needed the tax money represented by the wind farm.
“The people who built Pampa, Texas, and have been here year after year have been paying their taxes. We need for him to pay his taxes,” she said of Pickens. “That is my opinion, and I hope you will consider the long-term cost to Gray County.”
Ron Harris, a retired Cottle County judge and consultant/advocate from McKinney, spoke in favor of the proposed reinvestment zone.
“I am a consultant with Mesa Power,” Harris said. “Mesa will contribute multiple millions of dollars to the tax base.”
The wind farm is expected to consist of approximately 1,400 generators spread over 300,000 acres in areas of Gray, Hemphill, Roberts and Wheeler counties, with most of the units in Gray and Roberts counties, he said.
“The property owners have been contacted,” he said.
Total estimated investment in the project is $11 billion, he said.
“Figured into the cost are additional roads that may be put in,” Harris said. “Mesa will maintain those. We will repair any road that gets messed up by our equipment. We will make it the same as or better than before.”
The wind generator towers which will be erected on Mesa Power’s wind farm will be 400 feet tall and cost $1.5 million each.
“The project is estimated to bring 274 jobs to Gray County, mostly of a technical nature,” Harris said.
In an interview after the commissioners’ meeting, Harris said that Mesa Power would build its own transmission line to convey the power generated by the wind farm to customers downstate.
“We will do it where it involves the least population,” he said. “We do not have permission yet from the owners to cross land with the line. We will hopefully try to buy the land. I’ve never before seen 300 miles of land condemned.”
A water line may run beside the proposed electrical transmission line to transport groundwater to which Pickens owns the rights.
“We are able, because it’s a renewable energy, to put power and water together,” Harris said of the idea of the dual delivery system.
“He has not formally started leasing property yet for the wind farm,” Harris said. “Most of the leases he has talked to already are involved in the water issue with him,” he said of reports that Pickens was combining wind and water rights in proposed agreements with local landowners.
The proposed reinvestment zone is expected to be on the agenda of commissioners’ next meeting, Nov. 30.
Also on Thursday, commissioners renewed the county’s jail physician and medical officer contracts. Requests for proposals concerning various types of county insurance were opened, and Duncan Fraser & Bridges Insurance Agency of Pampa was once again selected to provide the insurance. The Pampa firm and Texas Association of Counties were the only two responders to the requests, and the local agency submitted the proposal with the lower cost.
Payment of overtime hours in the County Clerk’s office for the Nov. 6 general election was approved, as was payment of bills totaling $262,287.40 and salaries of $231,928.37.
Results of the Nov. 6 election were canvassed. Lot 9, Block 42 in the Wilcox addition was deeded to the owner of Lots 5-8 to resolve an issue of overlapping property. The lot had been deemed tax-delinquent property when the issue was raised.
No action was taken concerning updating the usage fee for White Deer Land Museum.
By Marilyn Powers
16 November 2007
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