The Finney County Commission approved an agreement Tuesday with a wind energy company that is estimated to bring the county approximately $100,000 in its first year.
After receiving approval from County Counselor Thomas Burgardt, all five commissioners signed the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with TradeWind Energy of Lenexa. The agreement is part of the planned Buffalo Dunes Wind Project, which has the potential to be a 405-megawatt wind farm and a $600 million development. Per the agreement, Finney County will receive $500 per megawatt per year from TradeWind, which will increase by 2 percent every year for 10 years. After that period, the company will pay normal property taxes.
According to Finney County Commission Chairman Don Doll, that translates to an estimated $100,000 in the first year. He said that number could increase to $200,000 if the wind farm reaches maximum capacity.
The majority of the project is set in Haskell and Grant counties. As there is more development in those counties, TradeWind offered a PILOT agreement of $3,750 per megawatt per year in both counties. According to county officials, that payment is estimated in its first year to be $350,000 for Grant County and $500,000 for Haskell County.
“Any business that comes into a rural area, we’re thrilled to have,” said Haskell County Commissioner Randy Froelich.
Finney County’s PILOT agreement is lower because it only includes transmission lines for the project. Those lines will come out of Haskell County and are planned to hook into a substation just south of the Sunflower Electric Power Corp.’s Holcomb station, according to TradeWind Development Manager Brice Barton.
Barton said that the next big step is that the company secures a power purchasing agreement so there will be a buyer for the energy generated. Once that agreement is reached and various pre-construction permits are approved, construction of the project can begin.
Barton said in a separate interview that the first phase of the project is expected to begin mid-March, which will include 70 turbines in Haskell County and 50 turbines in Grant County. Construction of the transmission lines in Finney County is expected to begin in May.
“We’re committed to building this project, whether it’s next week or next month,” Barton said. “We feel great about this project, and we hope to get it built this year.”
The commission also gave consensus that it would not object to a rural housing incentive district. The district, which was approved by the city commission in late December 2011, allows qualifying developers to recoup incremental property taxes from the development over 15 years. Since some taxes were at issue, the county commission had the opportunity to veto the district.
The 32-unit complex is named “Reserves at Prairie Ridge” and is located on a seven-acre site on the west side of 3301 Campus Drive. Groundbreaking for the site occurred at the time of city commission approval. Topeka-based Overland Property Group is the developer.
“We need housing, that’s for sure,” said Commissioner Larry Jones.
During public comment, 16-year-old Garden City filmmaker Jacob Olinger asked for permission to film Finney County EMS as part of a planned movie project. Olinger was granted permission by the commission as long as Finney County EMS Director Joe Hopkins did not object.
Olinger said the feature-length movie, titled “Just for Tonight,” is going to be filmed and use talent from the Garden City area. He said the movie, which he plans to start shooting in late April, is Olinger’s way of letting independent filmmakers know that movies can come from places other than Hollywood.
For information on the project or for ways of lending support, call Olinger at 805-1507.
The next commission meeting is planned for 8:30 a.m. March 5 at the County Administration Center, 311 N. Ninth St.
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