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Bingham voters to decide tax incentive plan

BINGHAM – It’s now up to residents whether to approve a tax incentive plan to aid a commercial wind farm and create a fund for economic development projects in town.

Residents will gather at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Quimby Middle School for Town Meeting. They face a tax increment financing deal to pool about $6.5 million in property tax increases – driven by a planned 50-turbine wind project by First Wind – into an economic development fund over the next 30 years.

People opposing the deal have described it as a corporate donation, since the Boston-based wind developer would have a significant portion of its property taxes – about $6 million – returned to it as part of the bargain.

Those in favor, however, say the fund would boost development in an area that needs it and would send a positive message to other prospective commercial enterprises.

Under the proposal, the town would receive $6.5 million over 30 years for economic development projects, with another $5.34 million entering the town’s general fund. First Wind would receive about $5.97 million in tax relief.

The tax shelter would prevent decreases in state education aid and municipal revenue sharing that would come about because of the development’s addition to town property values. First Wind plans to install about seven turbines in the northeast corner of Bingham as part of a larger project of about 50 turbines extending into nearby Mayfield and Blanchard townships.

The turbines near Johnson Mountain would add about $37 million new taxable value to the town in the first year of operation, with the value decreasing slightly over time. If residents pass the proposal, 30 percent of the taxes raised from this new value would come to the town, and the remaining 70 percent would be split between First Wind and the economic development fund.

The economic development fund would pay for proposed projects, such as: upgrades to the town’s waste water treatment facility, improvements to and construction of recreational trails, construction of a boat landing on the Kennebec River, creation of a marketing campaign to promote tourism, improvement of roads, purchase of a firetruck, expansion of the fire department, college scholarships for residents, downtown revitalization and a commercial revolving loan and grant fund.

At Town Meeting, residents will also vote on a proposed budget of $632,615, which includes a $16,500 increase for fire hydrant rentals, a cost fixed by the Public Utilities Commission. The budget is up about 5.7 percent, from $627,045 in 2010.

It includes $124,362 for administration, down 1 percent; $169,461 for public safety, up 6.6 percent; $139,650 for public works, up 7.4 percent.

Elections, which run from 12:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday at Quimby Middle School, will see a contested race for a three-year selectman seat between Gloria Jean Shaw and incumbent Myron Morris.