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Blowing along

County commissioners paved the way Monday toward granting a tax abatement to wind power giant Duke Energy. ..."I didn't feel like it's a benefit to the citizens of Ector County," he said. Simmons said wind turbines deteriorate quickly, and chances are they won't be worth much once a 10-year abatement is up, leaving little to nothing to collect property tax off of. He also said there's no guarantee permanent jobs would be created in Ector County since the majority of the Notrees Windpower Project is located in Winkler County.

County commissioners paved the way Monday toward granting a tax abatement to wind power giant Duke Energy.

Commissioners approved creating a reinvestment zone to determine the boundaries of where the abatement would take affect if passed. This step had to be taken before an official abatement agreement is considered according to Gary Vest, the economic development director for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce.

County Judge Susan Redford said Duke hasn't filed an official abatement request with the county yet, but the company has approached the chamber with a proposed 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement - to begin in 2010 - for phase 1B of the Notrees Windpower Project, which would place 11 wind turbines on a strip of land on the westernmost edge of Ector County. Vest said it's about $27 million worth of capital investment.

The majority of the proposed reinvestment zone stretches into Winkler County, where Duke has already placed 65 turbines, Vest said.

The entire phase 1B project calls for 40 wind turbines, giving Ector County 28 percent of them. Duke plans to start construction during the first quarter of 2009.

Commissioner Greg Simmons was the only no vote.

"I didn't... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

County commissioners paved the way Monday toward granting a tax abatement to wind power giant Duke Energy.

Commissioners approved creating a reinvestment zone to determine the boundaries of where the abatement would take affect if passed. This step had to be taken before an official abatement agreement is considered according to Gary Vest, the economic development director for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce.

County Judge Susan Redford said Duke hasn't filed an official abatement request with the county yet, but the company has approached the chamber with a proposed 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement - to begin in 2010 - for phase 1B of the Notrees Windpower Project, which would place 11 wind turbines on a strip of land on the westernmost edge of Ector County. Vest said it's about $27 million worth of capital investment.

The majority of the proposed reinvestment zone stretches into Winkler County, where Duke has already placed 65 turbines, Vest said.

The entire phase 1B project calls for 40 wind turbines, giving Ector County 28 percent of them. Duke plans to start construction during the first quarter of 2009.

Commissioner Greg Simmons was the only no vote.

"I didn't feel like it's a benefit to the citizens of Ector County," he said.

Simmons said wind turbines deteriorate quickly, and chances are they won't be worth much once a 10-year abatement is up, leaving little to nothing to collect property tax off of. He also said there's no guarantee permanent jobs would be created in Ector County since the majority of the Notrees Windpower Project is located in Winkler County.

And, he pointed out, wind is one of West Texas' abundant resources.

"I don't think we should have to attract them with tax abatements," Simmons said.

Duke is planning on creating up to 15 new salaried jobs to oversee phase 1B once its completed. Average salaries range from $65,000 to $75,000.

Duke spokesman Rick Rhodes said the company could hire as many as 150 employees during the project's building phase for a total of $2.9 million in construction worker payroll.

Commissioners also voted 3-2 - with naysayers Barbara Graff and Freddie Gardner - to go back to the bargaining table with Civigenics, a private jail management firm that oversees inmates in the courthouse jail. Repair work on plumbing in the county courthouse, where the Civigenics jail is located, has forced the management firm to relocate prisoners elsewhere.

Civigenics pays the county for space in the courthouse daily depending on how many prisoners are housed there, so the company is asking for a 40 percent reduction in its rent payment to make up for having to shuffle inmates around. Normally the county collects about $600,000 a year from Civigenics, county auditor David Austin said.

Commissioners are now asking the jail-management firm to fork over $5 per inmate instead of the $6.87 it's paying now effective Dec. 1.

"If they're not interested in negotiating, it will be an unfortunate loss for Ector County," Redford said.

Commissioners also adopted a job description for the county's new code enforcement officer position. The salary range is from $32,843 to $39,915 depending on experience, with a $300-a-year phone allowance. This person will report to Ector County Health Department Director Gino Solla.

The code enforcement officer will be charged with patrolling rural areas for illegal dump sites, investigating illegal dumping claims and providing public education on littering issues, among other duties.

And commissioners unanimously gave the Sheriff's Office a go ahead to pay overtime for dispatchers out of grant funds received earlier this year. Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson said his dispatchers have accumulated 213 hours of overtime since September due to a shortage of trained employees and workers being out for family and medical leave.

"Some have been working 12-hour shifts," Donaldson told commissioners. "We haven't had a chance to give them time off."


Source: http://www.oaoa.com/news/co...

NOV 24 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18064-blowing-along
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