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County board pays for turbine study  

Credit:  By Lisa Enos, MCP Correspondent | February 13, 2013 | www.masoncountypress.com ~~

LUDINGTON – The Mason County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday evening at the Mason County Courthouse and passed several resolutions quickly, with little discussion, barring one issue: loss of tax revenue regarding wind turbines and the county now having to pony up some dough to help fight a legal battle down state, the outcome of which will set a precedent for wind turbine tax revenue.

Confused? I was, so I did a little digging. Seems that the State of Michigan Tax Commission recently made changes to a personal property tax multiplier table which has resulted in a 27% decrease in tax revenues from wind developers to local governments.

Those affected by the decrease in tax revenue (read: public entities) contend that the new tax multiplier table (basically, a depreciation table) used to determine the value of the wind turbines, which it defines as personal property, does not accurately compute the true cash value of the turbines.

To that end, Mason County has entered into an interlocal agreement with Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Gratiot to explore the effect that personal property tax legislation has on tax revenue from wind developments. The counties have agreed to share legal costs and appraisal support for all townships in the five-county coalition.

The appraisal study and legal costs will be used to challenge the State of Michigan Tax Commission’s decision to use the new tax multiplier table. Wheeler Township (in Gratiot County) used the old tax multiplier table and is now in a legal battle with Detroit Edison, a case which will be heard by the Michigan Tax Tribunal. All public entities in the coalition area will be affected by the outcome of the case and stand to benefit if the decision to use the old tax multiplier table is upheld.

The first phase of the study could cost as much as $50,000, the first 50% to be divided equally among the five counties and then split pro-rata per wind turbine per county, with Mason County contributing 10.9%. Clark Hill law firm is handling the case and charges an hourly rate of $260.

Appraisers handling the planning study will receive an hourly rate of $275. The hefty fees caused District 5 commissioner Mary Nichols to raise an eyebrow and inquire (somewhat rhetorically) why the townships would not be bearing any of the costs.

The item on Tuesday’s agenda was an amendment to the interlocal agreement to also include ancillary expenses related to the appraisal study to support the coalition’s assessment position, which the board ultimately resolved to approve.

The County Board also approved of a bid from Kent Companies in the amount of $147,750 for Mason County Courthouse facade improvements, under the heading, “Tuck Pointing Project.” The project will be financed with $110,000 from a performance bond and $37,350 from the Courthouse Preservation Fund.

A request from the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame to be recognized as a nonprofit organization for the purpose of obtaining a charitable gaming license was approved as was an amendment to a $175,000 Michigan State Housing Development Authority grant (#MSC-2010-0760-HOA); to extend the grant period until Feb. 28, 2013. The grant was supposed to expire at the end of 2012.

Appointments:
Milan (Budde) Reed II has been reappointed to the Mason County Hospital Finance authority board through 2018.

County treasurer Shirley Smith and Sheriff Kim Cole were appointed to the Mason County Computer Network advisory board for a one-year term which will expire Jan. 31, 2014. Amber Township supervisor Jim Gallie was appointed to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority Board.

Public comments:

City of Ludington resident Tom Rotta asked the board to look into the death of 14-year-old, Darius VanBrook. The pedestrian was struck by a vehicle driven by an off duty Mason County Correctional Facility worker, Michael Hays, 33, of Fountain. Monday was the one-year anniversary of the boy’s death. “The newspaper said the State Police were called to investigate. In actuality, it was the Mason County Sheriff’s department that did the investigation,” Rotta said.

Tom Hooper praised the area’s senior centers as did Commissioner Janet Andersen of District 6. “I recently found out they have drivers and people who will take them to Grand Rapids for little or no cost,” said Hooper. They have walkers, canes and other things that elderly people need. Great organization and I’m glad they’re there,” he said.
Andersen attended a meeting with the council on aging and visited area senior centers Tuesday. “I believe that the council is committed to moving forward in a positive manner to meet the needs of the seniors in Mason County,” said Andersen, who implored the other commissioners to visit the senior centers. “I saw really good things. Mason County can be really proud of the services offered to the seniors of the county.”

Other resolutions by Mason County Board of Commissioners Tuesday resulted in:

-Approval of an amendment to extend the end date of the Mason County Fairgrounds development project period from May 1, 2013 to November 30, 2013. The State of Michigan offered the amendment to provide additional time for completion of the project which is being handled as a partnership between the County and the Western Michigan Fair Association and will make use of a $320,000 grant from the DNR under the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund project agreement.
-Approval to confirm receipt of 11 Motorola Minitor V pagers and to authorize the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission as the Region 6 Homeland Security Governing Board Fiduciary to process payment thereof.
– Approval of two claims – one in the amount of $413,069, dated January 17, 2013 and another in the amount of $217,978.31, dated January 31, 2013. The Finance, Personnel and Rules Committee audited the claims and found them in order.
– Approval of a budget correction for the 2013 Mason County jail operations as follows:
– an addition of $27,700 in Public Safety expenditures over the 2012 budget as County Administrator Fabian Knizacky did not change the 2012 numbers to the 2013 numbers when preparing the Special Revenue Fund budgets.
– Approval of Finance, Personnel and Rules Committee transfers, as follows:
– Jail Operations, $112,000
– Airport Operations, $31,800
– Property and Liability Insurance, $40,000
– Health and Life Insurance, $390,000
– Approval of a one-year extension to an agreement with the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, which provides liability, vehicle physical damage, property and crime insurance coverage to Mason County.

Source:  By Lisa Enos, MCP Correspondent | February 13, 2013 | www.masoncountypress.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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