Sunday, December 17, 2017

Wind Farm a done deal

Stillwater Wind’s tax abatement request was approved at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled Stillwater County Commissioners’ agenda meeting.
Through tax abatement, Pattern Energy will pay taxes on a percentage of its full taxable value for the first nine years after construction. By the 10th year, 100 percent of the taxable value will be used to assess taxes.
The commissioners opted for the 25 percent option, meaning that for the first five years Pattern will be taxed at 25 percent of its taxable value. That percentage will increase after the fifth year until the project is taxed at 100 percent of its taxable value.
The tax abatement process is structured by state law, and the 25 percent option is a product of the most recent legislative session. County governments now have the option to begin tax abatement at either 25 or 50 percent.
Even after tax abatement, the Stillwater Wind project is expected to bring almost $18 million of taxes into the county throughout the project’s 25-year lifespan.
The Stillwater Wind project will include 31 wind turbines north of Reed Point at the western edge of the county.
Along with the tax abatement request, approval was also given for the Noxious Weed Management Plan, the Road Agreement, and the Impact Fee Agreement for the Stillwater Wind project.
Commissioner Maureen Davey mentioned that Pattern has agreed to pay the maximum amount allowed under statute for the Impact Fee. This amounts to about $1.25 million – 1.5 percent of construction costs.
The Impact Fee will be paid throughout the first three years of the project and will go directly to the local government to help alleviate any local impacts of construction.
The commissioners emphasized all of the hard work put in by the county and Stillwater Wind throughout the process, and they thanked all of the parties involved including the county Weed Department, the Road and Bridge Department, the county attorney, and the landowners.
Commissioner Mark Crago said the county is excited for the wind project. Pattern Energy has been good to work with so far, and Crago is looking forward to having them in the community in the near future.

LOCAL CONCERNS
Columbus Police Sgt. Steve Hopsiter voiced some concern regarding the estimated 100 temporary workers that will be employed for the project at its peak next summer. He cautioned that people need to behave themselves, and he explained that the city has a 10-day limit for staying at Itch-Kep-Pe Park that will be enforced.
Road and Bridge Superintendent Mark Schreiner then mentioned that Pattern has discussed the conduct of employees many times, and the company is adamant that their employees maintain proper conduct throughout the project. If any incidents were to occur with Pattern employees, the county will alert the company and they will make any needed adjustments.
Crago added that the potential contractors for the job have been narrowed down to outfits out of Billings and Bozeman, and both companies may hire locally as well. With local workers on the job, some of Hopsiter’s concerns may not arise.