Commissioners to vote on tax breaks for Passadumkeag Mountain wind site

Penobscot County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Davis (foreground) speaks as Township 3 ND resident Esu Anahata listens during a commission meeting in Bangor on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.
Penobscot County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Davis (foreground) speaks as Township 3 ND resident Esu Anahata listens during a commission meeting in Bangor on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted July 22, 2012, at 4:16 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Penobscot County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to decide on Tuesday whether to give significant tax breaks to a 14-turbine industrial wind site proposed for Passadumkeag Mountain.

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. with an executive session involving Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross. The wind site deliberations are due to begin at 10 a.m., according to the meeting’s agenda.

Called Passadumkeag Wind Park and proposed by Quantum Utility Generation, an alternative energy company based in Houston, Texas, the site’s turbines would be 459 feet from base to extended blade tip. Each turbine would generate 3 megawatts of electricity, according to the company’s proposal.

Electricity would be collected in a 34.5-kilovolt line to run about 17 miles from Passadumkeag Ridge along Greenfield Road through Summit Township, Greenfield Township and Greenbush. The project would include a substation in Greenbush and a connection to an existing 115-kilovolt transmission line on Greenbush Road.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection review of the project is ongoing. The commissioners’ vote on whether to set a tax increment financing agreement with Quantum is not, commissioners have said, an endorsement of the project, merely an arrangement to capture the most economic value from the project for the residents they represent if DEP should approve the project.

A tax incentive program for economic development available to all Maine local governments, a TIF permits a municipality or county government to use some or all of the new property taxes that result from an investment project within a designated district to assist in that project’s expenses and also generate economic development funds for the municipality.

A TIF with the county would provide Quantum with tax breaks toward the project in exchange for a portion of tax revenues, which may be used for county initiatives totaling $7.8 million over 30 years. The money would be used for economic development projects.

To encourage further project development within the unorganized territory the commission represents, the developer would receive about $5 million over 30 years for potential reinvestment as part of the TIF, said Erik Stumpfel, the attorney who helped the commission negotiate the tentative deal.

And as part of the deal, the commission retains all of the tax dollars the project would generate during the last eight years of the 30-year period, Stumpfel said.

If the commissioners didn’t opt for a TIF, Stumpfel explained recently, more than half of the approximately $13 million in taxes it is expected to generate would go to the state, presumably for distribution statewide, instead of staying within the unorganized territories for reinvestment there by the commission or the developer.

The commissioners wanted to ensure that the millions in economic development aid would go into their territory “and would not all go to Augusta and be spread on a statewide basis,” Stumpfel said.

Residents opposing the project and anti-wind-power advocates have dominated the DEP and commission meetings devoted to the subject. They have said the project would blight the mountain landscape, reduce property values, severely damage the tourism-based businesses in the area, threaten wildlife and discomfit residents with the vibrations, noise and strobe lights the turbines would generate or use.

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