Gratiot commissioners approved an agreement with four other counties to take on the state and its decision to lower the amount of taxes collected on its wind turbines.
In the middle of the construction of the wind turbines and with promises of considerable tax revenue for local units of government, the state changed it’s policy. It reduced the amount of money that would be received by the locals.
The state provided no reason for the change, nor was any study completed, said Gratiot County Aadministrator Nicole Frost.
In all, the county stands to lose about $6 million in revenue over a 20 year period, as a result of the new tax tables, she said.
Bethany and Wheeler townships taxed the turbines according to the old tax tables and only DTE, the energy company that owns half of the wind turbines constructed in Invergy’s windfarm, took exception.
The matter is now going before the state’s tax tribunal.
Four other counties – Tuscola, Huron, Mason and Sanilac – saw the wisdom in sticking with Gratiot County and its townships. What benefits Gratiot will eventually benefit them as well, as they have wind turbines under construction too.
So an interlocal agreement, called the Michigan Renewal Energy Collaboration was created. In that agreement all the counties will share 50 percent of the legal fees equally. The other half will be divided according to the number of wind turbines each county has or will have.
Gratiot has the most with 167 turbines. and will pay 32.5 percent of that second half of legal expenses. Huron County with 160 turbines will pay 31 percent.
It’s expected that Bethany and Wheeler townships will help Gratiot with its share of the bills, Frost said.
To date, the coalition has “ spent $9,900 and Gratiot’s share is $2,600,” Frost said.
Frost told the board of commissioners that no more than $50,000 total is expected to be billed in legal fees. However, it’s likely to be, “two years before the tax tribunal hears the case.”
In another matter, commissioners agreed to purchase a new phone system at about $40,000 that should save the county nearly $3,000 a year. It will provide features currently not available. It should be installed by the first of the year.