CHATEAUGAY – State Comptroller’s Office auditors want Chateaugay to clarify its long-term plans for the cash it takes in as a wind-farm host community.
The town received $2.45 million from payments and fees from Noble Environmental Power’s 71-turbine Chateaugay Wind Park between January 2007 and Aug. 31, 2011.
It has used the money to renovate the Town Hall, construct a sand-and-salt-storage building at the Highway Garage and purchase heavy equipment.
And it has not had to raise taxes since the Wind Park money began coming in.
But in a recent audit, the Comptroller’s Office said, “the board did not have a comprehensive, multi-year financial and capital plan, nor did it have any other mechanism in place to adequately address the town’s long-term operational and capital needs.”
In response, Town Supervisor Donald Bilow said Chateaugay would have a plan for building, infrastructure and equipment before its 2013 budget is finished and will establish a reserve account of at least $500,000 “to keep us solvent in the future if revenues are diminished.”
He said the Town Council has a 20-year contract with Noble but it will also create a plan to “fund the budget in the event wind-power monies do not arrive.”
‘WORKING ON PLAN’
Documents auditors reviewed stated that, since 2009, Noble has given the town $532,500 in annual host fees and $88,853 from an annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.
Chateaugay was also paid $71,000 in 2007 for wind-energy permits, $485,000 to repair highways damaged by vehicles during Wind Park construction and $31,700 in application and permit fees for the existing Wind Park and two additional proposed wind farms.
The state wants to see long-term projects and future purchases identified.
“We have an informal plan. They just want to see it in writing,” said Bilow. “We’re quite pleased with the audit, and we’ve started working on the things they alluded to – the three-to-five-year plan.”
Bilow said the town spent about $143,000 on a new entryway and steps at the Town Hall and did the points and façade work on the building, which was constructed in 1941.
The town offices were renovated and fully insulated for about $170,000, and the sand-and-salt building cost about $370,000.
An elevator will be installed in the Town Hall this summer, but Noble is contributing an extra $142,000 of the $154,000 total cost for the project, he said.
New equipment purchased with Wind Park funds include a $120,000 loader, $51,000 bulldozer, $34,000 medium-sized dump truck and a wood chipper for about $36,000.
“This has been a good relationship,” the supervisor said of the partnership with Noble. “The payments have enabled us to do projects and make purchases we would not have been able to do without burdening taxpayers.
“The first year we started, we were able to lower taxes by $200,000, and we haven’t had to raise them in any way since then,” Bilow said.
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