Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Franklin County seeks tax break for wind farm

Kennebec Journal
February 20, 2008

FARMINGTON -- The northern Franklin County wind farm proposed by Canadian power producer TransCanada will not only significantly reduce the tax rate in the unorganized townships, but it could provide funds for economic development, a state official said Tuesday.

Franklin County commissioners Tuesday voted to engage Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta to advise, develop and negotiate a tax-break arrangement known as a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, with TransCanada.

According to TransCanada's project manager, Nick DiDomenico, the company will pick up the cost of all of Eaton Peabody's services, estimated at $40,000.

Tom Walker from the Maine Revenue Service, the state office responsible for assessing and collecting property tax in the state's unorganized territory, told commissioners the wind farm project will be a boon to the county.

"There will be quite a drop in the tax rate," he said.

In 2007, the tax rate in Franklin County's unorganized townships was $8.08 per $1,000 of property value, he said. He did not estimate what the new rate would be.

A TIF, a tool of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, captures all or part of the new property and business equipment tax generated by a new or expanding company. The revenues can be used by the municipality for economic development projects within the TIF's geographic district.

The business benefits by being able to retain a portion of its taxes that could go toward the project's development costs.

TransCanada, a Toronto-based power-generating company, proposes to construct a 44-turbine, 132-megawatt wind farm on the mountain range in Kibby and Skinner townships. Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission voted unanimously in January to support rezoning the site to accommodate the project with a final vote expected in June.

According to the company, the project will generate 357 million kilowatt hours per year, equivalent to the electricity needs of about 50,000 average households, taking into account the variability of wind speeds.

All power generated will be used in Maine and New England.

About 250 jobs will be created during construction with 10 to 12 full-time jobs. The company also will provide a community benefits package to the towns of Eustis and Stratton of about $132,000 a year.

Betty Jespersen -- 778-6991

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