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County urged to seek tax deal for wind farm  

FARMINGTON – TransCanada has not yet formally asked the county to consider a state-sponsored tax break program for its $270 million wind farm project near the Canadian border.

But on Tuesday, an outside consultant urged county commissioners to take the initiative and pursue the program since capturing the new tax revenue will benefit the county.

Franklin County, in conjunction with TransCanada, could take the lead and set up a Tax Increment Financing District to capture all or part of the new property and business equipment tax generated by the wind farm in Kibby and Skinner Townships, said Greg Mitchell of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC of Augusta.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for you to consider and to see if it makes sense for you,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell was invited to the meeting by Alison Hagerstrom, the director of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation.

Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon suggested the county could use the money from the TIF program to pay part of the $60,000 annual contribution to Greater Franklin, a non-profit, private economic development office that markets the entire county.

Mitchell said TIF revenues can be used for a range of economic development projects within the district set up by the agreement. That could include staffing, establishing a revolving loan fund for businesses or marketing the unorganized townships to bring jobs to the area.

Tax increment financing is a financial tool of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to encourage local economic development activities. The “captured” tax revenue generated by a new or expanding business is sheltered and is not counted as part of the state valuation.

Usually, a TIF is requested by a business that wants a percentage of its taxes assessed on its new value returned so it can be reinvested in the project, Mitchell said.

Mitchell, an attorney and a TIF specialist, recently worked for the town of Kingfield on a tax agreement for Poland Spring’s new bottling plant.

He currently represents Washington County, which has a TIF District with UPC Wind. The company is building a $100 million wind farm on Stetson Mountain in the unorganized territory. Options for using the county’s share of $375 million over 20 years are staffing a new economic development office, $1 million revolving loan fund, and $510,000 to promote nature-based tourism.

TransCanada had not been before the commissioners to request a TIF but Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon said he has been informally approached by a company representative.

Betty Jespersen

Morning Sentinel

23 January 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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