Lewis IDA secures boost in PILOT payments

The Lewis County IDA negotiated with Invenergy, parent company of the Number Three Wind Farm, to secure a $9,000 per megawatt total community benefit in order to satisfy the $8,000 payment in lieu of taxes expected from the county, towns and schools involved with the project while also having $1,000 per megawatt to create a Community Economic Development Fund for projects throughout the county. Julie Abbass/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — After some targeted negotiations with Invenergy, parent company of the Number Three Wind Farm, the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency was able to secure an increase to the standard payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, PILOT, so part of the money beyond that expected by taxing jurisdictions can go into a fund for economic development projects.

According to the IDA’s Board Chairman Joseph Lawrence, added to the PILOT payment of what has become the standard in the county, $8,000 per kilowatt, will be an additional $1,000 per kilowatt host community agreement for the IDA’s Community Economic Development Fund to go toward projects around the county acceptable for taxing jurisdictions.

“I think the $8,000 PILOTs have become pretty well accepted, but we took it to another level and pushed it as far as we could,” Mr. Lawrence said.

IDA Finance Technical Specialist Cheyenne Steria and Executive Director Eric Virkler worked with representatives from Invenergy, most notably Project Manager Marguerite Wells, Mr. Lawrence said, to find a creative solution.

By the end of August, the IDA team met with school, town and county officials and answered questions about the new $9,000 PILOT total and the economic development fund that will come out of it once the Number Three Project gets the green light from the state approval process.

“I know the town of Lowville is satisfied and I know at meetings with all of the municipalities, everyone else seems on board, too,” said town of Lowville Supervisor Randall Schell.

Mr. Schell noted that the municipalities had originally wanted a 2.5% “escalator,” or the annual percentage increase for the payment, however 1.5% was ultimately used so the taxing jurisdictions could get the $8,000 per megawatt with enough for the community fund, too.

The amount of money Invenergy will be paying out is basically the same with the new structure, but the extra $1,000 per megawatt will be paid over time, not in one lump sum.

“We wanted to get a deal done and we understood why the IDA wanted the fund to help areas in the county that don’t have wind projects,” Ms. Wells said. “We wanted to help the larger local area not just the project area and this was a creative way to do that. For me, personally, it’s that this benefits humans and not just the planet.”

The Community Fund idea the IDA has been developing over the past few years is similar to those Mr. Virkler said are already at play in other counties in which the IDA does all of the PILOT negotiations on behalf of the various towns and school districts involved.

The main difference, however, is that the “host community agreements” usually are also made with each municipality.

In this case the ‘community’ will be the entire county and the fund will be administered by the Lewis County Development Corporation.

“The idea is floated on there being a better way for money from these projects to get distributed considering who can use it, whether or not it counts against the tax cap and what can be done with it,” Mr. Virkler said in a July interview on the topic.

The fund isn’t likely to get its start, though, if the Number Three project doesn’t get approved or the company decides not to move forward.

If the fund is created, Mr. Virkler said each project, whether wind or solar, will be a new negotiation.

IDA officials said that the discussion about whether or not PILOTs given to private businesses will also be tapped for the community fund because a number of factors must be considered.

While the Development Corporation will take the lead on setting up the community development fund when the time comes, the types of projects that will be funded has been worked out.

“We’ve broken it down into three categories as the IDA has been thinking about this,” Mr. Virkler told members of the county Finance and Rules Legislative Committee in their July 23 meeting, “One would be grants or loans for small businesses, a second would be municipal or community projects like water, wastewater, a community park and or sidewalks, and the third category would be non-profits, education, health care.”

The deadline for the completion of the Article 10 approval process for Number Three Wind Farm was extended from September to November.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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