December 2, 2011
New Hampshire

Antrim wind deal to be reassessed; Payment plan in Antrim may be insufficient, selectmen say

By Abby Spegman, Sentinel Staff, 2 December 2011

ANTRIM – Selectmen are reconsidering a payment deal with a wind energy company after officials learned its development may end up costing the town more in taxes.

Antrim selectmen held a public hearing Wednesday evening on a deal between the town and Antrim Wind Energy, a subsidiary of Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy, for payment in lieu of taxes.

Eolian has proposed installing 10 turbines on Tuttle Hill. While the land would be leased and taxes would still be collected on it, the turbines and other equipment would not be taxed, Town Administrator Galen A. Stearns said.

Under state law, the town can negotiate such a deal for this project instead of collecting taxes on it.

According to the current deal, Eolian would pay increasing amounts over the course of the 21-year-long contract, beginning at $11,250 per megawatt for the first year the facility is operating. That rate would increase 2.5 percent a year.

But in the days before Wednesday’s hearing, Stearns said, officials learned how the state’s Department of Revenue Administration calculates the assessed value for the town is different than how they understood it when negotiating the deal with Eolian.

And the Eolian project could bump up the assessed value more than town officials expected.

The Conval Regional School District and Hillsborough County both divvy up how much their member towns pay according to the town’s worth, which, if it rises, could hike the amount Antrim owes in taxes.

“We’ve got to go back through and recalculate to see how that will affect the total town tax burden for the county and the schools and so forth,” Stearns said in an interview Thursday.

Officials are now reevaluating the deal, which could lead to renegotiating.

Because of its size – it will be at least 30 megawatts, Eolian said in August – the project falls under the jurisdiction of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, made up of regulators from varies agencies. According to testimony before that committee earlier in the summer, the project could be valued at $50 million.

But until Eolian submits its plan, the actual value is unknown, said Brian R. Beihl, an Antrim resident who was named a intervener in the case by the evaluation committee.

“The town could end up holding an empty bag at the end of this if the calculations the selectmen are making ends up being wrong,” he said. “That’s a big question mark.”

Beihl would not say if he is for or against the wind energy facility, only that he favors local control of the project and not letting state regulators decide its fate.

Meanwhile, Eolian has said it will file its application with the evaluation committee by Jan. 31. That committee will decide if and how it can move forward.

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