Randall County commissioners agreed they want a wind farm built in the county but couldn’t decide on how much tax revenue they wanted to give up to make that happen.
Commissioners took three unsuccessful votes on different motions at their Tuesday meeting but ended up calling a special meeting at 9 a.m. Friday to continue discussing what to do.
One option voted down was to give an 80 percent tax abatement for 10 years to the project expected to cost about $210 million to build. That would net the county about $1.6 million during that period in property taxes.
Option two would be for developer Chermac Energy to pay $2,000 per megawatt of capacity, which would be 156 megawatts. Commissioners voted down further discussion of that. It would bring the county $3.1 million over 10 years, said Commissioner Buddy DeFord.
President of Chermac, Jamie McAlpine, said he would discuss paying $1,500 per megawatt.
Only commissioners Mark Benton and Bob Robinson voted for the 80 percent abatement.
Benton noted that there would still be other taxes paid, like income taxes, and the development would increase the value of the land underneath it.
But DeFord wasn’t sold.
“You’re pushing us to the wall with this,” he said to McAlpine. “I don’t know how I could justify that with my constituents.”
Commissioners also voted down a motion to table the issue.
With no abatement or other arrangement, Chermac would pay about $6.8 million over the 10 years.
The 80 percent abatement bringing in $165,000 a year would still be a boost.
“It would take 290 homes at $140,000 (in taxable value) to get us to $165,000 a year,” Robinson said.
The wind farm would cover 11,500 acres in southwest Randall County with four landowners getting paid for a total of 68 turbines on their land.
“You must understand … If you live in southwest Amarillo, you don’t care if there’s a wind farm in southwest Randall County,” said County Judge Ernie Houdashell.
Commissioner Christy Dyer made the motion early in the meeting to table the issue. It failed, even though that’s eventually what happened.
“We want to ensure we get the best deal for the county and you,” she said to McAlpine.
McAlpine said he lacked about $50 million in financing, and attracting more investment depended on tax abatements from the county, Canyon Independent School District and the South Randall County Hospital District. The school and hospital districts haven’t taken any votes on reducing Chermac’s taxes, but CISD is awaiting an opinion from the Texas Comptroller’s office on whether a reduction in appraised value would be allowed by state law.
“Without such an (appraised value) limitation, the project, competing against other Texas projects that have qualified, would likely be forced to re-deploy its assets and capital to other counties and states competing for similar wind projects,” according to the application to the comptroller.
The wind farm, called Happy Whiteface, would have a full value of $210 million in 2016 and depreciate to $134 million 10 years later, according to the application. Special called meeting on wind taxes.
Upcoming meeting: Randall County Commissioners’ Court, 9 a.m., Friday, Commissioners’ Courtroom, third floor, Finance Building, 501 16th St., Canyon.
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