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Selectmen pass payment plan for Antrim wind farm

ANTRIM – A payment deal between the town and a wind energy company was finalized Wednesday night despite accusations from some residents that the agreement details were discussed during illegal meetings.

Selectmen voted 2-1 to sign a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Antrim Wind Energy LLC. Selectman Eric F. Tenney voted against the agreement.

Tenney said this morning he was not against the payment deal, but simply wanted to delay signing it for a couple weeks to go over some details. After the vote, he signed the agreement Wednesday.

Antrim Wind Energy, a subsidiary of Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy, wants to build 10 wind turbines on Tuttle Hill in Antrim on land leased from private landowners.

Because of the high taxes the company would have to pay on the facilities, Antrim Wind negotiated the payment in lieu of taxes, project manager John M. Soininen had said previously.

Under the 21-year contract, the company would pay $11,250 per megawatt for the first year the facility is open. The amount would increase 2.5 percent a year.

Earlier this week, seven Antrim residents said negotiations between the selectmen and Antrim Wind Energy took place during a series of illegal meetings.

The group says since the meetings were held without proper public notice, the decisions made in those meetings, including the payment deal, should not stand.

The selectmen’s attorney, Robert W. Upton 2nd, declined to comment earlier this week and could not be reached for comment this morning.

A similar payment agreement fell through last fall due to concerns the Antrim Wind project could bump up the assessed value of the town.

The Conval Regional School District and Hillsborough County both determine how much their member towns pay based on the town’s worth. If the assessed value of the town increases so would the taxes Antrim owes to the school district and county.

Soininen said earlier in the week that Antrim Wind is challenging the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration’s interpretation of the town’s value calculations. The company also has an alternate plan with the town to help mitigate the costs if taxes rise due to the wind farm.

Selectmen Chairman Michael D. Genest said he believes the majority of residents want to see the project in the town.

Genest said the project is now in the hands of the state Site Evaluation Committee, a group of regulators from various agencies. Because of the project’s large size – about 30 megawatts – it falls under the committee’s jurisdiction.