Dear County Commissioners, County Delegates, Incoming County Delegate Dr. John Fothergill, Senator Jeff Woodburn and members of the press,
On November 12, during the County Commissioners Meeting, Commissioner Grenier apparently went on a tirade against the good citizens of Millsfield based upon a fact that he stumbled upon. That tirade resulted in the article in the Berlin Daily Sun.
As I mentioned, the conclusions that Mr. Grenier reached are wrong. Had Mr. Grenier come to the citizens of Millsfield to inquire about what he found, he would have learned the truth. But it isn’t surprising that there was no communication to us from the County prior to Mr. Grenier’s outburst. We are still waiting for as little as a courtesy response to our letter to the county dated July 28, 2013.
The fact of the matter is that what Mr. Grenier stumbled upon was not an issue that involved the county, nor the delegates, nor the press in any way. Mr. Grenier found copies of a private agreement between a private corporation, and private citizens. That agreement was signed by all parties not only prior to last year’s valuation debacle, it pre-dated construction of the wind park. For all previous years, the private entity dealt directly with those individuals who signed the agreement. But this year, that private entity inadvertently went to the County for information that in no way involves the County government, the press, or any other outside individuals.
Here are the detailed facts of the matter:
The Wind Farm was a done deal well before anyone in Millsfield was even aware that such a project was being planned. The County Commissioners signed the PILOT agreement which gave a green light to the project. If there had been no PILOT agreement, there certainly would not have been a wind farm. No one from the County came to talk with any of the Millsfield folks to see if we had any objections or concerns to the project. There was no way that 10 households was ever going to stop the project, no matter what we did or did not want. Now we, in Millsfield hand only a few options back in 2009 and they are as follows:
* Protest the project and then get steamrolled when the project becomes a reality.
* Quietly accept the project.
* Try to cut a deal with the Wind Farm so that the permanent residents got something out of the project.
Of course we opted for the last option. An agreement was made for annual payments to each of the 10 households. The wind farm (back then it was Granite Reliable) insisted on a strict confidentiality clause in the agreement. Oddly enough, it was Brookfield that broke the confidentiality agreement by going to the County instead of dealing directly with us as was customary for previous years. Once the project was operational, annual payments started coming to Millsfield folks.
The agreement was done well before there was any problems with valuations, the DRA mess of last year, and well before construction of the Wind Park.
The agreement was drafted in 2009 to protect each household from any additional realistic property taxes up to a maximum of $5,000 per household.
There is no way that the maximum of $5,000 would have had any impact on any of us if we were taxed at $20-$50K annually, which was what was in store for us with the fiasco that ensued last year with the DRA and their new valuation of the wind farm. The additional valuation of the wind farm and the taxes associated with that new valuation was slated to be shifted, for the most part, to 10 households.
Mr. Grenier cites our abatements claiming poverty as the reason for the abatements. The truth is that we dealt with that excessive tax problem through the judicial branch, through the legislative branch, and through a last ditch effort of abatements if there was not a fix through the other means.
With the threat of taxes in the multiple tens of thousands per year, we each would have lost our homes regardless of the $5,000 max or the absence of that sum.
I don’t know about you, but if we had been hit with those tax rates, it would have caused not only my personal poverty, but also the loss of my home.
Mr. Grenier seems focused on the abatements, but the facts are that if we were taxed at the rates that were a very real possibility, our actual property values would become zero. There is no way that we could ever give away our property with such high taxation, and it is clear that whatever valuation was on the County books would be wrong. When valuations on government books are wrong, abatements are the tool for correcting that mistake.
Insofar as the valuation issue, that was not of our own making. The County did not hire any valuation experts for preparation of the PILOT agreement. The State, through the DRA, said that the valuation used for the PILOT agreement was wrong, and should have been increased by $116 million. So we Millsfield folks, who had no say in the original approval of the PILOT agreement, and who were about to face a huge increase in taxes due to the DRA ruling are apparently the bad guys? Seriously?
With regards to the bill that was filed supposedly on our behalf, the truth of the matter is that the bill had 2 very serious flaws in it as it was initially filed; it said that the wind farm money was to go directly to the county (not the Millsfield account), and it said that the commissioners were legally able to sign the PILOT agreement retroactively to back when they signed it. It made no accommodation for a possibility of Millsfield incorporating in the future. Millsfield citizens felt that those two clauses needed to be removed from the bill, and as you might know, I worked very hard (and successfully!) to get those two clauses removed while the bill was still in committees.
In the process of getting those clauses removed, I have no doubt whatsoever that I upset Mr. Grenier greatly along with Mr. Brady, Mr. King and a few others. But the bill that directly involved Millsfield should have been brought to the Millsfield citizens ahead of it being filed. The big problem as we see it is that the County does not ever hold a Millsfield town meeting to discuss Millsfield issues. The County refuses to communicate to us about matters that directly pertain to Millsfield as evidenced by the attached unanswered letter.
The Millsfield perspective is this:
* The County got Millsfield into the mess when they signed the PILOT agreement.
* The County messed up on the valuation figure used for the PILOT agreement.
* The State DRA decision in the valuation of the Wind Park caused a big valuation and tax problem.
The problem was not one of our making. It was the making of the county commissioners (except Mr. Samson who was not there at the time and who has been very good to us), the delegates who went along with the PILOT agreement despite the lack of due diligence in determining the correct valuation figure and the State Government involvement. Our simple perspective is this… Collectively, they got us into this huge mess. They needed to get us out of this huge mess. And the fact that there was an agreement with Millsfield folks and the wind farm, that was drafted years earlier has absolutely no bearing on the valuation disaster.
I could go on, and on, and on with facts and history to give you the Millsfield perspective. But we were all shocked when we heard about Brookfield haphazardly breaking the confidentiality agreement, and it was more shocking to hear of Mr. Grenier’s characterization of us Millsfield folks. It was revolting to read the mischaracterization of the good people of Millsfield in the news article in the Berlin Daily Sun.
No one from here ever lied, cheated, or did any of the other nasty things that Mr. Grenier accuses us of. I have full and complete documentation to back up the above facts. Mr. Grenier could have avoided all of this by talking with us, but instead jumped to a completely false conclusion. His public rant resulted in a rather defamatory article written in the Berlin Daily Sun. And because of his failure to communicate with us ahead of time, and because of his recklessness in jumping to wrong conclusions, and because of his ‘over the top’ public response, the good names and the good reputations of the Millsfield citizens have been severely harmed.
We have business people as citizens, and their livelihood is greatly impacted when false public accusations against them are made by public officials and the press. Please be advised that we take this dangerous and harmful damage done to our names and reputations very seriously. I note that this private agreement is published on the County Web Site.
Please also be advised that we are seriously investigating ALL LEGAL MEANS to restore the good names and the good reputations of the Millsfield Citizens. In our opinion those that have harmed us includes not only Mr. Grenier, but the Berlin Daily Sun which printed the article based upon false and rather slanderous information provided to them by Mr. Grenier. It also includes the County as a legal entity. as well as any delegates who went directly to the press without first contact us.
All of the above information is truthful. If any of you have any further questions about the actual facts, I will gladly answer those questions.
Wayne R. Urso
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