“The bottom line is, do you want $200,000 in taxes a year or not?” said Valley Commissioner Dave Reinhardt on Tuesday.
At their regular meeting the commissioners were discussing the tax abatement requested by Compass Wind. The proposed wind farm south of Opheim is still in the negotiation stage with several pieces hanging in the air.
The commissioners asked themselves if the project needed the abatement.
At a public meeting held in Glasgow on July 30 to introduce the Compass Wind project, their development director, Kyle Paulson, said they needed a tax abatement so the price they can offer a potential power buyer is more attractive. He said there is lots of competition for this opportunity to create and sell wind energy.
“Every way we can minimize cost, the more likely it is we can come to an agreement with the power buyer,” he said at that public meeting.
“All energies are subsidized,” Commissioner Bruce Peterson said. “There are seven Montana counties with wind farms. All have given a tax abatement. These guys (Compass Wind) are competing with someone who gives abatements.”
Reinhardt moved to give the tax abatement, saying, “The federal government is pushing wind energy. I’d rather fight them on something else.”
Commissioner Dave Pippin said it would be good for the Opheim School District.
The proposed $40 million wind farm would place up to 13 turbines on about 1,400 acres leased from four landowners south of Opheim. The turbines would generate up to 23 megawatts of power moved over NorVal Electric Co-op’s transmission system. This is one of the elements of the deal still under negotiation.
The tax abatement lasts 10 years. For the first five years, the company would pay only 50 percent of the normal taxes. Every year thereafter, the abatement would drop by 10 percent. After 20 years, the county would have received $3.5 million in taxes, compared to $5 million with no abatement. But there might be no project at all without the tax abatement.
As part of the abatement law, Valley County can charge 1/2 of 1 percent of the total cost of the project, up to a maximum of $200,000, as an impact fee for the county’s extra costs to provide public services.
In other business, the commissioners took up a question that has been dormant for a few years, repairing Skylark Road. It has potholes that are a safety hazard, but really fixing the roadbed and repaving would be very expensive.
Possible options are to repair the road in segments each year, to create a road district so the residents pay for it or to set aside PILT money for capital projects like this. The commissioners decided to bring it up during budget talks.
A Richland landowner has requested that the county close three short alleys in the town. Other neighbors don’t want them closed. The commissioners moved to close one alley where the landowner owns the property on both sides and the alley doesn’t go anywhere. They deferred action on the other two alleys for six months.