Township trustees in Huron County are telling the commissioners they don’t support making the county an alternate energy zone (AEZ). At the very least, they are skeptical.
Apex Clean Energy has asked the commissioners to consider declaring Huron County an AEZ. This is a type of tax exemption permitted by law that applies to qualified energy projects, including wind turbines. If the commissioners were to declare the county as an AEZ, it would be for the entire county. Apex has an office on Main Street in Bellevue.
Another possibility is a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (aka PILOT) project. It would pay out $9,000 per megawatt annually for the next 30 years.
“They average it out over 30 years. It’s going to be the same payment each year,” Commissioner Terry Boose said during a town hall-style meeting Thursday.
Also, regarding a PILOT program, he said the company would be forced to work with the local government and schools on road issues and emergency response training.
A Greenwich Township trustee said he is concerned about the impact and/or decrease of agricultural gains for an AEZ or a PILOT project. Other township trustees said they don’t like giving up any local control.
Huron County Engineer Lee Tansey expressed concern about the “repetitive use” that township roads would endure, which could cause problems and damage since those roads can’t handle the weight of those trucks and their cargo. No matter what money an AEZ or PILOT might produce, he said it would be expensive to fix the damaged roads.
Boose said if the board doesn’t approve the Apex recommendation, it would be dead in Huron County, but an AEZ could proceed in Sandusky and Seneca counties, where it has been approved. Erie County also is involved in a proposed AEZ in the Bellevue area.
“They are all kinda independent of one another; one can go without the other,” Boose said.
As part of their research, the commissioners hosted town hall-style meetings Nov. 30 and again Thursday night to hear comments from local residents about an AEZ or a PILOT project. Thursday’s session had two parts — the first for government and school officials and the second for local residents.
“We are really trying to understand both sides,” Boose said. “We want to make sure we hear it all.”
The commissioners have received 20 to 30 letters from area groups and organizations that support a PILOT program. They include: the Sandusky and Seneca county commissioners, the city of Bellevue, the economic development councils of Erie and Seneca counties and the Bellevue and Seneca city school districts.
The local commissioners had a conference call recently with Van Wert County government officials. Boose said the county had declared itself an AEZ, but later turned it down because the township trustees reported they didn’t like what they had. No further details were available. Only one Van Wert township supported an AEZ.
After the first part of Thursday’s meeting, an Apex representative talked to Boose. He said he was told Van Wert recently approved a PILOT program.
Rural Bellevue resident Tom Yingling supports the Emerson Creek Wind Farm project being developed by Apex in Erie and Huron counties.
“(It can) produce enough energy to power 94,000 homes,” he said in a letter to the editor. “It was clear, based on the broad range of input at the meeting, there is a great deal of community support for this project — and for good reason; it stands to deliver an immense economic opportunity for the region over a 30-year period.”
Also, Yingling said he believes local schools could “reap significant benefits from annual payments” and would be “less reliant on increasing our property taxes” for funding.
“This means a new dedicated, long-term revenue stream to update facilities, provide new supplies and equipment and invest directly in our children,” he wrote.
Commissioner Skip Wilde provided his opinion on what the board’s stand currently is on an AEZ in Huron County.
“I can almost tell you we’re not doing an AEZ,” he said without elaborating.
Boose agreed, saying he’s not sure what would need to happen for him to support an AEZ in Huron County.