Cohocton Wind Watch: Deal reached on wind project
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Deal reached on wind project

Bath, N.Y.

A new tax incentive is in place for the stalled First Wind wind farm project in Prattsburgh, pending what officials hope is the final approval by the Naples Central School District next week.

The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency signed on to a new payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement that will provide more money to the Prattsburgh and Naples school districts while also increasing the town of Prattsburgh’s share.

The two school districts challenged an earlier PILOT for the proposed 36-turbine project in early 2008, charging it unfairly reduced their share of payments from First Wind, then known as UPC.

PILOT agreements typically allow an industry to operate for up to 20 years without paying the full value of its property tax. Instead, the businesses pay a fee that gradually increases to full taxation.

Generally, the county and towns split 52-53 percent of the annual payments, with the school districts taking in 47-48 percent of the payments.

However, the total payment had been reduced to accommodate an independent payment by First Wind to the town of Prattsburgh, meaning the two districts could lose a combined total of nearly $2.6 million during the course of the agreement.

The impasse led to two lawsuits, one of which was settled recently by the Prattsburgh Central school district, according to SCIDA Executive Director James Sherron. The second, brought by the Naples district, is expected to be settled next week, Sherron told the SCIDA board.

Sherron declined to give exact details of the new PILOT, but said the town of Prattsburgh has agreed to forego the independent payment in favor of receiving roughly 47 percent of the total payments.

That separate payment to the town amounted to more than $4 million more over 20 years.

Sherron later said concerns over some of the language in the agreement also have been straightened out.

One portion of the agreement reportedly referred to payments being based on turbines "in service" -- leading to concern the payments could be reduced if First Wind did not use all the turbines it sets up.

"No, this is for the entire project," Sherron said. "When the turbines are up, they count."

First Wind officials were not available for comment on the new agreement.
Sherron said the proposed agreement must also be approved by EcoGen, the second wind farm developer in Prattsburgh.

SCIDA’s action marks the first upbeat note for First Wind after a year of controversy, which still include lawsuits challenging eminent domain proceedings brought by the town board, and charges of improper, unethical action by town Supervisor Harold McConnell.

In addition, First Wind also is one of two wind farm developers currently under investigation by the state Attorney General.

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