MILAN, MO. – Landowners in Sullivan and Adair Counties stand to make a lot of money if Tradewind Energy decides to go ahead with the Shuteye Creek Wind Project and build wind turbines on their land.
However, the company won’t build if it doesn’t win a contract with Ameren UE, and the development manager says they can’t win the contract without some big tax breaks.
Wednesday the Sullivan County Commission held a meeting to discuss just how many tax incentives it wants to give the company. Some elected officials were torn between bringing in the new business and giving away the tax base.
According to Tradewind Energy development manager Rod Northway the company would pay approximately 60 landowners between $800 thousand and $1.6 million in royalties by the time the project is complete.
One landowner tells us her family stands to receive about $6,750 dollars per turbine the company builds on their property.
That money will come back to the county eventually, says Presiding Commissioner Chris May.
“Typically farmers spend their money, and it circulates pretty quickly, and we look at that as an advantage,” May said.
Northway adds that the project would also create up to twelve new jobs and up to 600,000 payroll dollars.
Despite the payments to landowners and new jobs, some elected officials and community members expressed concern that the commission would give Tradewind too many tax breaks.
“I would like to see the whole county benefit, not just a small portion of the county,” Sullivan County resident Culley Cowgill told KTVO after the meeting.
That sentiment is echoed by County Clerk Mike Hepler, who notes that Tradewind’s competitor is paying twice as much to a neighboring county.
“If this project was sitting in Gentry County and was assessed and taxed in the same manner it would be coming in at almost six million dollars per year in local property tax,” Hepler said. He’s proposed that Tradewind pay Sullivan County $2.7 million per year.
“I’m not against [the project] in any way, shape or form. I am against giving away the tax base,” he said. In his opinion that’s what would happen if Tradewind paid any less.
“Every time you give away tax, you cost [the county] money, services or combination of both,” Hepler said. He says he’s concerned about the county’s return on investment.
But the presiding commissioner is confident that offering big tax breaks is better than offering no tax breaks and driving the company away.
“We hope that at the end of the day, we have some type of agreement that a substantial amount of money is coming in that at least would prevent anyone from having to raise a levy,” Mays said.
The wind in Sullivan County could create renewable energy for years to come, but the opportunity to bring turbines to the Heartland is not open ended.
May hopes a committee of representatives from several taxing districts including the townships where turbines would be located, the library, the hospital, and others will reach a consensus on how much the county is willing to offer in the next couple of weeks.
“There’s a sense of urgency, so we would hope that in two months or so we’ll come to a conclusion on what [we’ll offer,]” May said.
Tradewind representatives hope the county will come to a conclusion sooner or later.
Wind energy is renewable; the demand for it is finite. Missouri utilities are only obliged by law to purchase a set amount of wind power. So, if Tradewind does not win a contract with Ameren UE as it hopes, it could miss out on the opportunity to sell the wind energy altogether.
Tradewind also plans to build turbines in Adair County. Representatives have yet to meet with commissioners regarding tax breaks, but a Northway says he plans to do so in the near future.
By Dana Jay
13 June 2008
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