Franklin County commissioners were urged Thursday night to reject a tax break for a Canadian wind-farm developer because the company didn’t need “corporate welfare” and the project should rise or fall on its own merits.
A majority of the 40 or so people speaking at a hearing on a 20-year tax agreement between Franklin County and TransCanada said the Canadian energy company could well afford to build the project.
They also said a tax break was never discussed during the application process at the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, and the company’s wealth was touted at that time.
The commission approved the project earlier this year.
Those who spoke in favor of the agreement urged commissioners to move forward and adopt the TIF to capture the potential $4 million in new revenue to invest in the future of Franklin County. Otherwise, the county would never be able to afford that much money for economic development, they said.
More people kept quiet than spoke at the hearing.
Prior to the comment session, Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay said the hearing would remain open to accept written comments until the commission votes on the matter at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 3, at their office at the Franklin County Courthouse.
TransCanada proposes to build a 132 megawatt, 44-turbine commercial wind farm along Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in Kibby and Skinner townships in northern Franklin County. The total investment to develop the project is estimated at $270 million. Of that amount, TransCanada’s taxable investment covered under the TIF is capped at $220 million in valuation. Anything over that valuation would be assessed taxes that would go into the statewide unorganized territory fund.
The minimum TransCanada has agreed to invest as part of the TIF is $150 million. If the investment is less than that, the company would not benefit.
The agreement proposes to capture 75 percent of the new tax revenue for the first 10 years and 50 percent for the next 10 years, with the county keeping 40 percent and TransCanada getting 60 percent.
The remaining 25 percent of tax revenue gained in the first half of the agreement, and 50 percent in the second half, would go into the state’s unorganized territory fund.
The county would be able to capture up to $4 million, based on a $220-million taxable investment, in new revenue to invest in economic development in unorganized territories.
The proposal could also return a maximum of $8.9 million to TransCanada to reinvest in the development over 20 years, and $9.3 million in new tax revenue to the state’s unorganized territory fund.
Ed David, a Farmington resident and volunteer member of the Greater Franklin Development Corp., spoke in favor of the agreement. He said the wind farm will not put a demand on services but will bring in a potential $4 million for economic development. He said other TIFs agreements in county municipalities only benefit those towns and businesses while this TIF was an economic benefit to the entire county.
Conrad Heeschen of Wilton, who was opposed to the deal, said “TIFs were originally intended to support projects that wouldn’t happen … and more and more it seems like it is an entitlement … I think it is pretty accurate to say it is corporate welfare.”
Sure the county is going to get $4 million, Heeschen said, “but in order to do that we have to pay $9 million to the developer. If we didn’t do the TIF, I believe the project would go on.”
By Donna M. Perry
30 May 2008
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