The Ottawa City Council and Invenergy, developer of the Grand Ridge wind farm, have split the difference concerning the fee the city will receive as administrator of the enterprise zone being expanded for Invenergy’s estimated $5.2 million benefit.
Tuesday afternoon, 22 minutes after its 4:30 p.m. scheduled starting time, Council members jointly filed in the Council chambers and in two minutes, without discussion, approved a new cut for the city and expansion of the enterprise zone.
The zone, which runs along the Illinois River from Ottawa into Grundy County, will extend to territory south of the river that will include the 66 wind turbines now being installed.
The benefit to Invenergy would be an estimated $7.5 million exemption to state sales tax on project construction materials.
The new deal gives the city an estimated minimum of $375,000 more than proposed in an agreement placed on file last Wednesday.
Originally, Ottawa stood to benefit from a fee equivalent of up to 20 percent of the sales tax savings. But that was with the understanding the Ottawa Fire Department was to be the “first responder” to calls at wind farm construction sites – which would mean ones in other fire agency jurisdictions. Under the revised agreement, Ottawa’s share was to drop to 10 percent with the other 10 percent to be divided up among fire protection agencies in the expanded enterprise zone area.
Parks and Public Property Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut, who made the motion for the change to 15 percent, said after the meeting that the 10 percent was deemed too low.
Reaching the new understanding was the reason for the delay in the start of the meeting.
Eichelkraut said discussions were not directly between council members and Invenergy officials, but by the city’s “legal team.”
“It was not a negotiation, just bouncing things back and forth,” said Eichelkraut.
Joel Link, Invenergy’s director of business development, said after the meeting he was satisfied with the agreement.
“We’re happy and we’re very pleased with the city.”
Link said that the 10 percent cut previously discussed for division between local fire agencies would remain essentially the same.
Officials from the Grand Ridge and Marseilles fire agencies attended.
Ron Wilson, vice president of the Grand Ridge volunteer fire department’s board of directors, said the agencies were still working amicably on their own agreement with Invenergy.
“They’ve been very generous,” said Jack Leininger, president of the Marseilles Fire Protection District board and also a Republican La Salle County Board member from rural Marseilles.
County Board member Tom Walsh, D-Ottawa, also attended.
Leininger estimated school districts in the wind farm area would annually receive, in total, $667,160 from increased property taxes. But additional increased taxes will come as the project expands, he noted.
By Charles Stanley
28 November 2007
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