A former Industrial Development Agency director said he’s outraged that Broome County residents are being asked to pick up part of the tab for an electric generation project whose output will likely flow to metro New York.
Stephen Herz said the 124-megawatt wind installation approved for the two towns will satisfy downstate’s growing need for electric generation while representing nothing but a burden for Broome taxpayers, who are being asked to forgo $30 million in property, sales and mortgage taxes.
Herz, an ex-county legislator representing Windsor and Sanford, said the amount is a lot to sacrifice in return for two employees from project sponsors.
Project coordinator Chris Stanton said it was possible for some of the juice generated by the installation to flow to Broome customers, but it’s difficult to determine where exactly the electricity will go
“On a minute-to-minute basis electricity flows to where it’s needed,” he said.
Herz was among about a half dozen speakers at Wednesday’s online public hearing on the project. The IDA is being asked to approve a $21 million property tax abatement over a 20-year term, and additional $9 million in tax benefits.
“This project brings nothing to us,” said Anne Lawrence, a Sanford resident who has been leading the charge against the installation.
How many jobs will the plan create?
A 40-page tax abatement application submitted to the Broome County Industrial Development Agency contained some of the first publicly released details of the financial package driving the deal and indicates job projections in initial state regulatory filings may have been overstated.
During the two-year construction timetable, Northland Power, the Toronto company that recently acquired the project from Calpine, expects to employ about 70 tradespeople annually, with an average wage of $74,000, according to documents.
Once in operation, the wind installation would employ two people at an average salary of $86,000, though it said the turbine supplier “will have an additional need for full-time employees based at the site.”
While there were several Windsor and Sanford residents objecting to the project, two labor union representatives said the project will create jobs for local trades people.
“These construction jobs are very valuable,” said Steve Payne of the local laborers union.
Agency directors will review the tax abatement application at their meeting Oct. 21.
Based on designs, 23 towers would be spread across Sanford, many visible from Route 17, and four more in Windsor. Some of the largest turbines could measure 670 feet in height from base to the top of the blade tip.
The company said the tax break would be offset by an additional $936,000 annually through a previously negotiated Host Community Agreement, bringing total annual payments to eastern Broome taxing authorities in the first years of the agreement to $1.1 million.
Lease payments to host and adjacent landowners will be over $1.4 million in the first year of operations and increase each year, the company said.
Of the $213 million invested, the company estimated federal and state assistance would fund about 40% – $86 million – of the total cost. Not included in the project’s final price tag are amounts spent in gaining the state permit and other pre-licensing efforts.
Wind project criticism ‘never heard’
The application for the tax deal culminates a more than five-year-long process to win approval for the controversial project.
Sanford residents mounted a vigorous fight to derail the installation, saying the 60-story-high towers are incompatible with the rural, forested environment. Wildlife experts said turning turbine blades represent a hazard to migrating and resident bald and golden eagles.
New York utility regulators turned aside objections, approving the project last December even as the two local representatives on the Public Service Commission Sighting Board criticized the initiative.
Bill Mirch, whose wife sat on the state’s siting board as an ad hoc member from Windsor, said her concerns about the project were dismissed by the chief of the Public Service Commission and other state agency heads.
“In my view, her voice was never heard,” he said. “Not one peep.”
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