L’ANSE – At the end of Tuesday’s meeting of Services And Vibrant Economy (SAVE) for Baraga County, questions on cards from anonymous attendees were collected from the audience.
The first card, read by meeting facilitator Mike Roberts, asked how much of the Upper Peninsula’s electricity is coming from renewable sources.
Steve Waller, the Northern Michigan University adjunct instructor who gave the first presentation, said he did not have the numbers for the UP readily available, but across the state it was under 10% and likely lower in the UP.
“Almost all of it is coming from wind,” Waller said.
Another attendee questioned the affordability of moving to wind power.
“Renewable energy is now the cheapest form of electricity there is, even without subsidies, and the subsidies are being phased out,” Waller said. “It is cheaper right now to get electricity from wind power than it is to merely maintain a coal-fired power plant.”
He said that is why so many wind farms are being built.
Another question asked how SAVE has promoted economic development.
Roberts replied that this meeting itself was one action and said residents should stop chasing away businesses and other potential economic development, which adds to the area’s tax base.
“Is everything positive? No, not everything is positive,” Roberts said. “But we need to take the positive stuff and work with it.”
He said he hopes the SAVE group grows, in part because he wants to secure a good economic future where his kids don’t need to leave the area for better-paying employment.
Another card asked Burt Mason, the Friends of the Huron Mountains president, what revenue their anti-wind farm group will bring to the area.
Mason was in attendance and gave a brief answer:
“What we’re interested in doing is working diligently to improve tourism,” he said. “We’re not against development. We’re against this siting.”
One of the last questions was about the potential tax income and appeals by turbine owners. Roberts passed the question to tax assessor Jim Fedie.
“Will it be guaranteed? I don’t know,” Fedie said. “But they are paying the taxes. I talked to Garden Peninsula. They’ve never been appealed. Anybody that’s using the state tax commission form, the windmills aren’t protesting them at all.”
There are two depreciation schedules being used for wind turbines in Michigan. One put out by the state that has them at 30% of their value after 10 years, and one put out by a coalition of counties that takes 15 years to get them to 30% value. Fedie said only the coalition schedule has been getting appealed by the turbine owners and that he was using the state schedule.
“In large part, you have not seen tax commission appeals when you’re using those tables appropriately,” added Steven Tinti, a Crystal Falls attorney who gave a presentation on zoning laws at the meeting.
After the meeting, FOHM issued a statement to the Gazette that said in part, “After more than a year, the local pro-wind people keep on misrepresenting facts and our position.”
They said the meeting didn’t allow meaningful dialogue and presented an idealized model of wind farming based on siting in agricultural communities that ignored ecological and cultural concerns.
They said that Waller declined an invitation to debate in open forum, but they look forward to seeing the results of the May 7 referendum and improving the township master plan based on the outcome.
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