BIG TIMBER, Mont. –
“I welcome these folks to come,” Sweet Grass Rancher Chuck Rein said. “I have no problem with the wind farm. I just want them to pay their fair share of taxes upfront and be a good neighbor to all of us that have served this county for so many years.”
Not all residents are happy about the tax abatement BayWa renewable energy is seeking for the construction of the Sweet Grass County wind farm.
In public comment, some residents said “fair is fair.” They said their companies and ranches didn’t receive a tax abatement to get off the ground and they don’t feel a multi-billion dollar company should receive one.
“A lot of our forefathers struggled to make this county viable to keep it viable,” Rein said. “So we have a lot of feelings about a new entity, a California entity, coming into this county and pleading the case of hardship that they can’t make their project go without a tax abatement.”
Because of the variables included in the project, BayWa representatives said they cannot complete the project without the tax break. They also said after the project is complete, they will be the fourth largest taxpayer in Sweet Grass County and will provide $2.9 million in taxes over ten years.
While some residents don’t feel it is fair, others said they see the value in the project.
“The tax rebate was to encourage businesses to come to areas they normally wouldn’t,” Sweet Grass County Rancher Rick Jarrett said. “Our commissioners have the opportunity to use that leverage to get them to come here and spend their money, and invest their money and create a tax base.”
Some residents argue only select businesses can apply for a tax abatement and ranching is not one of those businesses.
They also said the county could use the extra tax dollars the wind farm would bring in if it’s successful.
“Right now, our number one taxpayer in Sweet Grass County is Stillwater Mine,” Jarrett said. “Mines aren’t going to last forever. Mines run out of product and they go out of business and take their tax base with them. We need to keep thinking about what’s going to replace Stillwater Mine.”
A decision will be made next Tuesday.
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