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County OKs tax break for wind farm

BEEVILLE – County leaders approved an abatement for a proposed wind farm in Tynan that will mean about a million dollars extra over the next 10 years.

County Judge Stephanie Moreno, said during Monday’s meeting, “At 21 turbines, it is $1.6 million over 10 years, and at 24 turbines, it is $1.9 million.

“I cannot walk away from this deal thinking they are going to come anyway.”

The decision though was not unanimous.

“The small percentage we are getting, they are going to want to come anyway,” said Commissioner Sammy Farias, the lone dissenting vote. “We are giving it away.”

On the other side was Commissioner Dennis DeWitt.

“This is the future, and we can either embrace the future or turn our back on it,” he said prior to casting his approving vote. “When you turn your back on the future, it will hit you right in the back.”

During a prior court meeting, there was much discussion about the impact these wind farms have on the area’s wildlife.

Bird death was a concern for Jimmy Jackson, local photographer and naturalist.

“They (birds) fly at night in a migration through here,” Jackson said during the court meeting last month. “Everything comes in through the Coastal Bend.

“If the weather gets skunky, they fly right into the wind farms.”

Evidence of their demise is also not always left on the ground.

“Rats and things learn what is going to happen, and they are out picking up birds,” Jackson said. “The birds aren’t of much interest to a lot of people, but they are of interest to me.”

The court ultimately approved the area as a reinvestment zone, making way for the abatement approved this week.

The lone dissenting vote then was DeWitt, who this time sided with the majority.

Moreno reminded the court that there are key aspects to this project that she and others took into consideration.

“This is not Bee County property,” she said. “These are private landowners that have signed up for this.

“They know the risks for having these windmills on their property.”

She added that like the others, she wasn’t willing to gamble on losing the tax money which would be a benefit not only to the county but also Skidmore-Tynan ISD, which signed its own abatement agreement recently.

“I am not a gambling woman,” she said. “I would hate to say ‘no’ to this and the school district lose out on this money they desperately need for facility and education improvements.”

The county’s abatement also calls for a $40,000 up-front payment.

For those concerned about the impact to wildlife, DeWitt said that these turbines are going in – if not in Bee County, then in San Patricio County.

“You can really find research on either side of this depending on who put it out,” said Moreno, an attorney.

“I think these researchers are a lot like lawyers. They can argue either side of this.”

Commissioner Ken Haggard, whose precinct includes Tynan, and who like Commissioner Carlos Salazar voted to approve the abatement, said this agreement is an assurance they won’t be losing the additional tax money.

“I don’t go to Vegas, and I am another guy that doesn’t like to leave money on the table,” Haggard said.

Moreno added, “We don’t have these property revenues now.

“We are not taking anything away from our taxpayers.”