FARMINGTON – Franklin County has received $2.29 million so far under a 2008 tax-increment financing enhancement agreement it has with TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc. related to Kibby Wind Power.
Franklin County commissioners also approved grants in the amount of $390,553 for improvements to trails and scenic byway areas and other projects since March 2012 to help increase economic development in the unorganized territory covered in the agreement, county Clerk Julie Magoon said Monday.
In 2008, it was estimated the county would retain $4 million over 20 years when commissioners entered into a credit-enhancement agreement with TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc., a wholly-owned affiliate of TransCanada Corp. The agreement is related to the 44-turbine Kibby Wind Power Project on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in northern Franklin County. The project was valued at about $320 million in 2010.
TransCanada later expanded the project by adding 11 more turbines at the adjacent Sisk Mountain, but the expansion was not part of the Tax Increment Financing agreement.
The TIF agreement allows for 75 percent of the new taxes to be retained by the county over 20 years, with county commissioners reimbursing the company 60 percent of those new taxes annually for 20 years. The remainder of the TIF funds was to be dedicated to the county for economic development in the unorganized territory.
Commissioners amended the TIF in 2011 to add more categories to the development agreement after the state Legislature expanded the areas that TIF money could be spent in.
Commissioners are in the process of looking for a consultant to give a thorough review of the agreement and to help the county amend the TIF. The TIF would have to be re-opened and it would have to go to a public meeting once a proposal is developed, Magoon told commissioners Sept. 2.
Three important areas that should be looked at are expanding the development program and geographic area to include more categories and more area that can be covered under the pact, Magoon said. Some of the trails that have been improved or are in the process of being approved to extend into other areas in the unorganized territory, she said.
Another area to look at is the enhancement agreement with TransCanada, she said. Money is coming in at a faster pace and is more than was initially expected, she said. It was unknown when the agreement was approved what the wind operation would be valued at, she said.
Project categories with the unorganized townships that qualify for funding range from scenic byway improvements to tourism packaging and marketing assistance to global positioning systems and trail improvements. Public safety/fire protection, emergency communications and scholarships for education also are qualified categories.
Magoon received a list of consultants approved by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development from Laura “Smitty” Santini-Smith, the tax incentives program director.
Commissioners authorized Magoon to contact four of the consultants to see about availability and what they would charge for the work.
There is more than $60,000 in the administrative account in the TIF to pay for the consultant.
“It is going to be more than a simple review,” Magoon said.