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County unveils wind farm tax plan

FARMINGTON – County commissioners unveiled a draft agreement Thursday for a tax-increment financing district that could bring the county up to $4 million over 20 years to use for economic development in unorganized territories.

That would be the deal if the value of TransCanada’s proposed 44-turbine wind farm in Kibby and Skinner townships is assessed at $220 million – a conservative estimate, according to consultant Greg Mitchell, who was hired by the county to help negotiate the agreement with TransCanada.

The TIF agreement would also send a projected $9.3 million in new tax revenue to the state’s unorganized territory fund and $8.9 million to TransCanada to invest in the wind energy project.

The proposal sat well with some people at the informational meeting but not with others.

Ed David, a Farmington lawyer, said it was an opportunity for Franklin County to capture some new revenue it wouldn’t ordinarily see and invest it in economic development to benefit the whole county. He also suggested valuation-rich towns were greedy if they didn’t support the proposal.

But Carrabassett Valley Town Manager Dave Cota said the draft agreement would shift more of the county tax burden to organized towns and let the company get away with not paying its fair share of taxes.

Mitchell said the purpose was to reach a balanced agreement that would benefit all of the county directly and indirectly.

The TIF would capture 75 percent of the new tax revenue for the first 10 years and 50 percent for the latter 10, with the county keeping 40 percent and TransCanada getting 60 percent. The remaining tax revenue gained would go into the state’s unorganized territory fund.

Based on an estimated taxable investment of $220 million, the gross tax revenue in the first year would be $1.77 million. Under the TIF terms, the county would get $533,280 and TransCanada would keep $799,920. The unorganized territory fund would get $444,400.

The TIF deal requires that TransCanada invest a minimum of $150 million in the project.

The county would likely reach its $4 million cap by Year 10 of the agreement. Its share of the money would go into a Franklin County investment plan for the unorganized territories to pay for signs and scenic outlooks, public safety and fire protection equipment and tourism planning and marketing.

The next steps are a public hearing, a vote by the commissioners and approval by the state before the plan becomes final.

By Donna M. Perry
Staff Writer

Lewiston Sun Journal

16 May 2008