BEEVILLE – The county will not be offering a tax abatement to the company building wind turbines in the Pettus and Pawnee area.
This decision Monday, Feb. 10, came by unanimous vote of the court with their denying the formation of reinvestment zone, a required first step to offer the tax reduction.
Eric Barnett, with Lincoln Clean Energy, had hoped the county would approve a zone for the future abatement to include an area encompassing both Pawnee and Pettus school district or about 1/3 of the county.
“The decision by the Bee County commissioners was one-sided and did not consider the ramifications on the opportunities for the school districts,” Barnett said.
The Pawnee school trustees approved the company’s abatement application, but not the abatement, during their meeting last month.
Initially, it was thought that the county not approving the reinvestment zone would stop the school district offering an abatement.
“The school can designate their own,” Barnett said. “They are not waiting on the county.
“The county is not the only entity that can designate a reinvestment zone.
“I have never had a situation where I didn’t go the county route and had to go to the school.”
Barnett, during that meeting, said that the company was going to pursue this project with or without the county’s abatement and designated reinvestment zone.
In response to questions later, Barnett said, “However, this vote is forcing us to reevaluate our future in Bee County.”
He adds that this farm, designated the Helena Wind project, is a $300 million project and would mean “an additional $150 million will flow through the local economy.
“In the coming weeks, we look forward to demonstrating to the commissioner’s court the negative economic impact their decision will have long-term on families and constituents across Bee County.”
Joe Carter, a resident of the area, said that the court should not be offering any reduction to businesses.
“We can’t give away tax abatements to anybody, for any reason,” Carter said.
Austin Brown, another resident, was harsher in his thoughts at the request.
“This is one of the biggest boondoggles that I have seen in my lifetime,” he said. “It comes in second to the alcohol industry in the Midwest where they take corn, and they produce ethanol for vehicles.”
The ethanol, he said, is known to cause damage to small engines.
He adds that if the turbines truly generated money, the company would not need the tax break from the county.
“It is a tax boondoggle,” he said.
A request was made to Orsted, which owns Lincoln, to speak to supporting landowners.
“We appreciate the opportunity to connect you to supportive landowners and are seeking his permission to provide contact information as soon as possible,” Barnett wrote in response to this request.
The company released a statement from Patrick Mackle, described also as a local landowner.
“Our family is disappointed in the decision – the long-term revenue from the project for our ranch and neighbors would provide financial stability and peace of mind for the future. I just hope it is not too late and something can still be worked out,” Mackle said in the release.
Similar turbines are already turning in Tynan area, in ground used for farming.
The area being leased now by Lincoln is primarily ranchland with older oak trees dominating the landscape.
“We’re blessed with rolling hills on the northern part of Bee County,” Brown said. “We are blessed with beautiful farmland in the southern part of the county.
“Most of the county, 95% of which is unpopulated, is covered in huge, beautiful Live Oak trees.
“On my property alone, I have many trees that are over four-foot in diameter, and they’re very old.
“If this county is turned into a wind farm, this will no longer be a beautiful county.
“It will be a disaster.”
Jodie Hagler kept her words short.
“And I’m going to speak from the ladies’ view point,” Hagler said. “Why would we give an abatement to something is going to change the value of people’s property, and the majority of people do not want it?”
Brown reminds that while the Tynan wind farms are 30 miles from his home, the red lights atop the towers can be seen.
“On Sunday nights when I come in from church… that last hill I cross, all I see in the distance are red lights,” he said. “I used to see beautiful starlit skies.
“Now I see the red lights atop those 400-foot wind towers.”