The wind development company EverPower plans to go before the Logan County Commissioners in the near future to request a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for its Scioto Ridge Wind Farm development, company representatives said this week.
Although the company plans to move forward with construction of 87 wind turbines in Hardin County by year end, for the remaining 18 towers to be built in Richland and Rushcreek townships in Logan County, the commissioners will first be asked approve the PILOT request, company spokesman Jason Dagger said.
“We will be talking soon with the Logan County Commissioners and asking for a PILOT,” Mr. Dagger said. “This is still a $350 million investment and it will generate $1.8 million tax revenue annually.
“We think this is a very large economic benefit to Logan County. We are building the rest of the project and we would like Logan County to be a part of it.”
The Logan County Commissioners’ Office has not yet set a date for the meeting with EverPower, and commissioners have been clear that they will announce the date publicly and accept input from residents before making a decision. They also said in an email message to EverPower this week that the request should first be filed with the state.
“You are well aware that the PILOT request does not start at our office and any meeting to discuss/request the PILOT would be a complete waste of time until the PILOT is requested through the Ohio Department of Development,” the commissioners wrote in the email.
“Before we attempt to schedule a meeting we need to be clear on what the meeting is about. You will need to describe what exactly you plan to discuss.”
Recently, EverPower struck a deal with concerned property owners, primarily around Indian Lake, to eliminate 65 turbines from the plan that originally was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board. The settlement agreement brought to conclusion the appeal that was before the Ohio Supreme Court.
The company can move forward with the 87 turbines in Hardin County via an alternative energy zone policy that was in place in Hardin County at the time the project was first presented. No such alternative energy zone exists in Logan County, and EverPower must appeal to the county commissioners here to approve a direct payment plan, which is the easiest way to tax the project.
While a resolution by the commissioners in favor of a PILOT would pave the way for the 18 turbines in Richland and Rushcreek townships, a denial of the request would not mean the turbines could not be built and taxed under an existing but complicated utility taxation structure that has yet to be tried in Ohio, Mr. Dagger said.
“If it is taxed at a utility rate as some suggest it should be, the net increase to the school district would be zero,” the local project manager said. “Initially, it would be more money, but the turbines would be depreciated and eventually any benefit would disappear.”
How the PILOT works
The tax impact of the PILOT agreement is fairly straightforward although the final amounts are not yet set in stone. As it stands now, the total amount is estimated at $1.8 million a year between all entities in both counties. That number is based upon $9,000 per megawatt for a 200 megawatt development.
The pot of money would be divided in accordance with the geographic and political lines in which each turbine is located. That is, as proposed by EverPower, each taxing entity within a geographic boundary would stand to benefit in accordance with the property taxes in place.
Roughly figured based on millage rates on file with the Logan County Auditor’s Office, the estimated $18,000 in annual payments for each turbine located in Rushcreek or Richland township would generate $12,000 for the Benjamin Logan School District; $1,800 for the Logan County Board of Developmental Disabilities; $1,350 for the respective township; $1,000 for the county general fund; $830 for the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center; $470 for Logan County Children’s Services; $290 for Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Services of Logan and Champaign Counties; and $100 for the Logan County Historical Society. The BMRT Ambulance District would also get roughly $100 a year for each turbine in Richland Township.
The final figures could vary from these estimates, however, as the Logan County Commissioners will be allowed to have some input on the final division of the tax money, Mr. Dagger said. The size of the turbine installed also plays a significant factor on the final amounts. The figures presented are based on 2 megawatt turbines, but the plan approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board allows up to 3.3 megawatt turbines, which would increase the PILOT amounts.
The big winner
While some of the taxing entities may only see minimal boosts to their budget, Ben Logan schools stand to benefit the most.
Of the 87 turbines in Hardin County, 62 are within the boundaries of the Ben Logan School District. That means if the project moves forward as planned in Hardin County, the schools will see at least $500,000 a year in payments, Superintendent Dave Harmon said.
Of the remainder in Hardin County, four are in Kenton School District and 21 are in the Upper Scioto Valley School District.
All 18 of the proposed Logan County turbines are in Ben Logan, meaning the district could realize an additional $200,000 a year if the commissioners approve the PILOT as it stands.
“As a district we are not taking a stance one way or another; we are not in favor and we are not opposed to it,” Mr. Harmon said.
“But, the budget is about $20 million a year to run this school and roofs always need to be repaired; we have parking lots that need paved and a track that could be resurfaced; our high school is 26 years old and things need to be addressed. A half million dollars a year would certainly make that easier to do.
“And could that help the taxpayer with money we don’t have to take out of the general fund? Of course it could,” the superintendent said.
Mr. Dagger said plans are already in place to work with local fire departments and first responders to handle any accidents or fires that could occur at the turbine sites.
“As a requirement, we have to train first responders and provide additional safety gear. There have been very few instances of problems at any of our facilities,” he said, noting that EverPower manages seven wind developments in its home state of Pennsylvania, Illinois, California and New York.
“But zero accidents doesn’t mean zero training. We provide annual training to first responders and even though they probably won’t have to use the training at a turbine, local fire departments and EMS can use it to adapt to other situations.”
He also said the development will create 10 to 12 skilled jobs that will be available to local workers.
“These are pretty technologically savvy turbines so the jobs require some training, but they are based on electronic and hydraulic skills that people use in other trades that exist here locally,” the developer said.
“We want as many people from the local community as possible because history tells us that people from the local community stay local.”
Regardless of what happens in Logan County, Mr. Dagger said the company is working toward a timeline to have the 87 turbines in Hardin County operational by the end of 2017.
“We will be under construction by late this year and the total build time is less than 12 months,” he said. “The survey work and field engineering is ready to start and a road use agreement is in place in Hardin County.”
Logan County Engineer Scott Coleman has already been involved in the discussions and will be called upon to approve any final road use plan for five miles of township roads in Logan County if construction moves forward here.
The developer said if Logan County approves the PILOT request, it does not mean the county is open game for future development.
“Logan County has no alternative energy zone in place so anything done in the future has to be treated on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “But I can tell you we have no plans for future development in Logan County.
“We do believe we have developed a good project with good support from the land owners and have exceeded the minimum siting criteria,” Mr. Dagger said.
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