The Municipality of the District of Chester’s warden and deputy warden clashed Thursday on how to pursue economic development.
Deputy warden Floyd Shatford said it should be part of regular budget discussions, but Warden Allen Webber indicated it should come from a designated pot of cash generated from two windmill projects.
In the end, council sided with Webber.
The municipality’s audit and budget committee recommended council adopt a policy that would see one-third of revenue from wind energy projects go toward economic development, one-third be invested in operating reserves and one-third be designated for infrastructure and community projects.
The committee said it wants to have a plan to ensure the money, which starts coming into the municipality’s bank account next year, is set aside for sustainable investment.
Chester district will have two sources of wind energy revenue – the municipality’s own turbine at Kaizer Meadow and the adjacent South Canoe Wind Farm.
The municipality’s turbine will generate $100,000 to $200,000 annually in the first 10 years, $200,000 to $300,000 annually in the following five years and $550,000 to $600,000 annually in the final five years of an agreement through the province’s community feed-in tariff program.
South Canoe is expected to begin producing power next year and will generate $600,000 a year for the municipality through taxation.
“I think we’re looking at this like it’s a special little fund of money for (economic and community development), and it’s not; it’s tax dollars,” Shatford said.
He said the new cash should be part of the overall budget “rather than absorb the money with no direction.”
Council can discuss which projects to support as they come up, but Webber said if the municipality doesn’t establish a fund for such development, they won’t get done.
Shatford said he doesn’t see why wind farm tax revenue should be treated differently from any other revenue.
“If you don’t fund economic development out of this, you fund it out of something else,” Webber said. “We have an opportunity, quite frankly, that others maybe don’t have. We have the source of revenue which gives us the ability to do this kind of thing.”
Coun. Andre Veinotte agreed. “(Economic development) has got no budget, and if we don’t give it a source of funding, it will wither up and die.
“I think if we fire this money into the general revenue, it’ll get eaten up by all the ongoing stuff, and the only way to fund economic development will come from tax dollars, and it’s not going to be very appealing. … We need to give it sustained funding if we want to be serious about economic development in this municipality.”
Webber said the municipality got into wind energy because it wants to create economic development.
A reserve policy would ensure the funds are there when projects come up, he said.
The municipality plans to create an economic development program.
Council voted in favour of a policy that will see the revenue split three ways, saying it can change the policy if money is needed elsewhere.
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