ANTRIM NH -- A wind energy company signed a $125,000 check and handed it over to an Antrim town official Monday night during a public hearing.
The money was handed over after the select board approved an extension to its PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) with Antrim Wind Energy. The change extends the timeframe that the company has to go online, pushing the date from Dec. 31, 2018 to that same day in 2019.
The money will be added to the town’s unanticipated fund balance.
After months of discussion about the matter, the select board unanimously approved the extension. They were also able to negotiate the 20-year operating term payment during the process. The original document stated the company would pay the town $11,250 per megawatt of generation capacity the first year it goes online, which was originally proposed to happen in 2015. The agreement says the payments will increase by 2.5 percent cumulatively every year of the operating term.
Select board members bumped the number to $12,000 per megawatt the first year the project goes online, and a 2.5 percent increase each year thereafter.
Steels Pond Hydro
The board also tweaked its PILOT agreement with Steels Pond Hydro.
Steels Pond operates a small power production facility, which is located on the north branch of the Contoocook River.
The five-year agreement went into effect on April 1 and will run through March 31, 2022. The agreement means the town will tax the small company’s revenue instead of its property. The hydro facility started generating power at in January 2015.
Last year, the town collected about $22,000 in tax revenue from the small hydro plant. This year, it will likely collect around $13,000.
“Last year was really tough, the town whacked us with a $22,000 property tax and it was five months of drought so that was really hard,” President of Steels Pond Hydro Lori Barg said after the meeting.
She said the company requested a PILOT years ago, but it never happened.
“We requested this years ago, and underneath the law 72:73 they should have given it to us years ago because they gave the wind a PILOT,” Barg said.
Resident Wayne Nichols raised some concerns about the town entering into the agreement during a public comment section of the meeting.
“I wish I could do that with my house, that sounds like a great deal,” Nichols said.
Select board member Bob Edwards explained the state statutes allow for this type of provision when it’s a public utility.
“So it’s unique to the utility,” Edwards said. “It’s not for homeowners or commercial real estate even.”
Edwards said the town doesn’t necessarily have to approve the request, but if it’s reasonable and represents fair value, then they try to come up with an agreement.
“To me, the value of that entity is not the infrastructure, it’s the income,” Edwards said.
Nichols argued utility companies like Eversource Energy pay taxes on their poles and generating equipment, which can soar into the millions, he said.
“Why don’t the state come up and give them a PILOT program so they can pay just on whatever they’re generating?” he said.
Edwards explained that the energies are regulated differently.