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Wind farm recertified for EZ

It was a very Good Friday for Maple Ridge Wind Farm municipalities. The wind farm and three other north country companies - HCA Genesis Inc. in Watertown, Lewis Lanes in Lowville and M&W Foods Inc. in Potsdam - on Friday morning were recertified into the Empire Zone program.

Maple Ridge, 3 other north companies reinstated; municipalities' budgets will benefit

ALBANY — It was a very Good Friday for Maple Ridge Wind Farm municipalities.

The wind farm and three other north country companies — HCA Genesis Inc. in Watertown, Lewis Lanes in Lowville and M&W Foods Inc. in Potsdam — on Friday morning were recertified into the Empire Zone program.

A loss of EZ benefits to Flat Rock Wind Power, the company under which Maple Ridge was developed, was to result in a $6.3 million drop in annual revenue for Lewis County, the towns of Martinsburg, Harrisburg, Lowville and Watson and the Lowville, South Lewis and Copenhagen central school districts.

"That was the best news I've heard in a long time," said Kenneth J. McAuliffe, Lowville Academy and Central School District superintendent.

"That is just great," said Lewis County Legislature Chairman Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham. "I didn't really see why it should have been decertified to begin with."

The state Empire Zone Designation Board chose to recertify 74 companies, including the four local ones. All were decertified last summer after being targeted as "shirt-changers," or companies reincorporated as different... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Maple Ridge, 3 other north companies reinstated; municipalities' budgets will benefit

ALBANY — It was a very Good Friday for Maple Ridge Wind Farm municipalities.

The wind farm and three other north country companies — HCA Genesis Inc. in Watertown, Lewis Lanes in Lowville and M&W Foods Inc. in Potsdam — on Friday morning were recertified into the Empire Zone program.

A loss of EZ benefits to Flat Rock Wind Power, the company under which Maple Ridge was developed, was to result in a $6.3 million drop in annual revenue for Lewis County, the towns of Martinsburg, Harrisburg, Lowville and Watson and the Lowville, South Lewis and Copenhagen central school districts.

"That was the best news I've heard in a long time," said Kenneth J. McAuliffe, Lowville Academy and Central School District superintendent.

"That is just great," said Lewis County Legislature Chairman Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham. "I didn't really see why it should have been decertified to begin with."

The state Empire Zone Designation Board chose to recertify 74 companies, including the four local ones. All were decertified last summer after being targeted as "shirt-changers," or companies reincorporated as different entities that claimed they created jobs when, in reality, they transferred employees from one entity to the other. They appealed the decision.

The Empire Zone Designation Board ruled the companies had been labeled incorrectly.

"This confirms the position that the county took," County Attorney Richard J. Graham said.

Flat Rock chose in December to pay only $2.29 million of its $8.99 million annual payment in lieu of taxes, claiming it should pay only the so-called "fallback amount" without certainty of EZ benefits. It also filed a state Supreme Court lawsuit seeking court approval of its interpretation, and the municipalities filed a countersuit claiming Flat Rock was in default of the PILOT agreement.

Friday's ruling should resolve the pending legal action, Mr. Graham said, noting that he still needs to contact wind farm attorneys to discuss any outstanding issues.

Lewis County's 2010 budget projected only $623,203 in wind farm revenues — down from $2.16 million in 2009 — owing to uncertainty about EZ benefits.

"It actually is a little bit of sunshine on the horizon instead of all the rain clouds we've been enduring," Mr. Bush said.

With the state board's decision to recertify the wind farm, the legislative Ways and Means Committee will have to discuss what, if anything, to do with the unbudgeted money, Mr. Bush said. "Maybe we can pave a few more miles of road this year," he said.

For the Lowville school district, Friday's decision means about $2.8 million in unbudgeted revenues for the current school year, plus $2.8 million for the 2010-11 school year that district officials weren't planning for.

"We're going to have to rethink some things," Mr. McAuliffe said. "Happily rethink some things."

Owing to the wind revenue uncertainty and proposed state aid cuts, the Board of Education was considering cutting at least three positions through attrition, using a large amount of fund balance and raising taxes 3 percent to 4 percent, Mr. McAuliffe said.

Now, some planned cuts might be averted, and the district may keep the tax levy stable for the fifth straight year, he said.

"Hopefully, this can help hold taxes down in Lewis County," Mr. McAuliffe said.

Wind-farm payments are divided among taxing jurisdictions through a revenue-sharing agreement based on 2004 and 2005 tax rates.

Flat Rock received about $7.2 million in EZ benefits in 2006, according to filings from that year.

HCA Genesis, which operates Mercy of Northern New York on Stone Street, received $259,500; M&W Foods Inc., the Potsdam Dunkin' Donuts franchise, received $7,351, and Lewis Lanes received $7,124.

Lewis Lanes lost its 12-lane bowling alley to a January 2009 fire but rebuilt and reopened last fall.

The Empire Zone Designation Board has yet to make final decisions about 223 other businesses that have appealed their decertifications, including five in the north country. Businesses still under review are ACN Companies LLC, Northern Health Care Linen Services Co. Inc. and Jerry R. Gardner, doing business as Total Property Management, from the city and town of Watertown and Hazen Enterprises Inc. and Trezza Realty LLC from the Potsdam zone.


Source: http://www.watertowndailyti...

APR 3 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/25482-wind-farm-recertified-for-ez
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