ELLSWORTH, Maine — Hancock County commissioners signed an agreement Tuesday to purchase more than $115,000 in equipment for an emergency communications tower in Township 16.
The 150-foot tower was erected by First Wind in the Unorganized Territory, just east of Eastbrook, as part of the commercial wind company’s Bull Hill Wind project. The firm erected and brought online 19 commercial-scale wind turbines on Bull Hill last year.
The tower will be used to boost the county’s emergency radio communications in the eastern part of the county. By a 3-0 vote, commissioners voted Tuesday to pay Brown’s Communications of Ellsworth $115,414 for the equipment and to have it installed on the tower.
More than $96,000 that the county is getting from First Wind as a result of the Bull Hill development is going to help fund the purchase of the communications equipment.
Starting this year, First Wind is donating $200,000 each year for 20 years to a county-controlled community benefit account. As a result of a tax-increment financing or TIF district the county created around the Bull Hill project site, the county also is expected to receive $4.7 million dollars in TIF funds over the next 30 years, most of it in the final 10 years of the 30-year period. The TIF district also gives First Wind a rebate on millions of dollars in county taxes that the project is expected to generate over the next three decades.
According to Hancock County Clerk Cynthia Deprenger, the communications equipment purchase and installation costs are being funded with $71,250 from the TIF account, $25,000 from the community benefit account, and $19,164 from the county’s regional communication center capital equipment account.
Phil Roy, Hancock County’s chief financial officer, said Thursday that TIF funds from the Bull Hill project can be used only for economic development initiatives in the county’s Unorganized Territory. Broadband communications development, recreational trail maintenance and improvement, transportation and road enhancements and related expenses are among items that can be paid for with TIF funds, he said.
First Wind has two other power projects planned for Hancock County. One of them, the 18-turbine Hancock Wind project in townships 16 and 22, was approved in July by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The other, Weaver Wind, could include dozens more turbines in adjacent towns and townships, based on power projections that First Wind has provided to officials in Connecticut.