FARMINGTON – Franklin County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to sign a letter of engagement with an Augusta consulting firm for services related to establishing a tax-increment financing district for the proposed Kibby Wind Power Project.
Commissioners entered the agreement with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC and the law firm, Eaton Peabody, which owns the consulting group, for professional services.
Both entities would advise Franklin County on ways to maximize county benefit for a TIF, negotiate TIF agreement parameters with TransCanada Wind Energy and TIF documents, public presentation materials and the TIF process.
TransCanada Energy Ltd. project manager Nick Di domenico told Franklin County commissioners Tuesday that the company is interested in working with them to establish a TIF district for the proposed Kibby Wind Power project.
Di domenico said the company would be interested in entering into a similar TIF agreement to the Washington County deal that was signed in 2007 with UPC Wind for the Stetson Mountain wind project.
The structure of that TIF directed 60 percent of the TIF revenues to support the project’s development costs and the remaining 40 percent went to Washington County, with the revenues directed to the county’s economic development programs in the unorganized territories.
It was the first TIF granted by a county to a business in an unorganized territory.
If commissioners and then the state approve a TIF between Franklin County and TransCanada, it would be the second.
Greg Mitchell, a consultant with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, outlined that TIF agreement, which the firm negotiated for Washington County, at a January commissioners meeting
Mitchell said Tuesday that commissioners could request TransCanada Wind Energy to reimburse Franklin County for the cost of all services covered in the engagement letter.
Mitchell said he wouldn’t expect it to exceed $40,000.
Di domenico said TransCanada would be willing to fund the cost.
Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay asked if work on a TIF before Maine Land Use Regulation Commission approved the project was premature.
TransCanada proposes to build a $270 million, 132-megawatt, 44-wind turbine project on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in Kibby and Skinner townships in northern Franklin County near the Canadian border.
Di domenico said he didn’t think it was premature. LURC commissioners unanimously requested its staff to draft a recommendation of approval for the project in January, he said. He expects the commission to act on the application in early March, he added.
The turbine units are manufactured in Europe and the costs are growing, he said.
“The timing of this would help us better understand what our economics are,” Di domenico said.
Tom Walker of the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services said he could run some numbers on his computer on a TIF. He also said that if there is no TIF agreement, the tax rate would significantly drop for those in the unorganized territory and municipalities that pay a share of the county government. The tax rate for the UT in fiscal 2008 is $8.08 per $1,000 of property valuation.
McGrane said the commission wants to look at the big picture and who would be affected if a TIF was to happen and if it didn’t.
By Donna M. Perry
20 February 2008
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