December 12, 2013

County leaders talk turbines, death, taxes

BY NICHOLAS GRENKE, Tribune Staff Writer | Huron Daily Tribune | December 12, 2013 |

BAD AXE – A lot more questions got raised than answered at a recent Michigan Renewable Energy Coalition meeting, according to Huron County Commissioner Ron Wruble.

“More than 200 cases involving turbines are in tax tribunal,” Wruble said at the Huron County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. He added that some recent cases in Huron County have been settled with DTE Energy.

Wruble said that some wind farm companies believe that their tax rates should be based at the point after their 30 percent tax breaks for construction are taken into account. He used an example that a wind park that would have cost $100 million to build, yet only cost $70 million because of government funding for clean energy, in the wind turbine company’s eyes should only be counted as if it was a $70 million project in tax terms.

“Isn’t that like double dipping?” Commissioner John Bodis asked.

The board spoke against that idea and voiced concern about how difficult it can be with wind turbines in new areas of the county.

“A lot of new townships had wind turbines that came online this year,” Wruble said. “Each township has a different set of circumstances.”

“Our legal council said it’s up to the boards of review in each individual township,” Wruble said.

In other business:

• A discussion took place on medical examiner and cremation fees in Huron County. Funeral home directors have voiced concern that the cost for a medical examiner’a signature on a death certificate is too high.

“I’ve spoken to funeral parlors and they feel that it is death tax,” chairman Clark Elftman said.

Commissioner John Nugent pointed out that the county has to foot the bill for the paperwork as well and the fees helped pay for the time it took for the county clerk to file death notices.

“It’s the cost of doing business,” Nugent said.

After some discussion attempting to figure out how much it cost to cremate a person in Huron County, the subject turned to what happened when a ward of the state was cremated and the family couldn’t be reached. Commissioner Steve Vaughan asked Steve Allen if he had such remains in his office.

“I wish you wouldn’t have asked that,” Allen said.

He said that he does have someone’s cremated ashes because of a tie up with the person’s family from Wayne County who hasn’t picked up the remains for proper burial. He said he hopes to get the situation handled soon because a person’s ashes need to be handled respectfully and legally, but that the family south of Huron County hasn’t shown interest in proper disposal.

• Bodis said that the jail population is at a manageable number, but the medical fees for inmates are up $40,000. Clark hypothesized that it could be because of treatment from methamphetamine users in the area being arrested.

• Vaughan said repairs could be needed for the elevator in the county building. The cost of the project would be $150,000 – much more than what is set aside in the budget.

“As it stand now, it still works,” Vaughan said. “We’re going to have to take care of it sooner or later.”

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