North Adams Transcript, 11/19/10

Hancock to see PILOT funds from Berkshire Wind project

North Adams Transcript, 11/19/10

HANCOCK — The owner of the Berkshire Wind project has offered to pay the town up to $109,000 a year in lieu of taxes, according to a town official.

Sherman Derby Sr., chairman of the Selectmen, said Thursday that representatives with the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp. made the offer at a Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, and the board has since passed the information on to the town attorney and consultants for further examination.

“They’re proposing initially $109,000 per year, and then they want to depreciate the payment over the 20-year life span of the project,” he said. He stressed that the proposal is tentative.

Derby said the town was unaware until recently that it would receive any revenue from the land along the Brodie Mountain ridge line on which 10 wind turbines are currently being built. “All along we thought that there was no mechanism in place to get money or taxes from it,” he said.

He said after speaking to people in Boston and elsewhere in the state, he and other town officials learned that the cooperative would have to set up a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the town. “What we found out is before they throw the switch up there, they have to negotiate a PILOT payment with us,” he said.

The cooperative, which is a collaboration of 14 cities and towns in the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., is having the 1.5-megawatt wind turbines built.

Work on the turbines began in September 2009, but was stopped a month later after the state Land Court issued an injunction following a lawsuit being filed against the project by Silverleaf Resorts. The Dallas-based company owns property on the New Ashford side of Brodie Mountain abutting the project. In September, the cooperative and Silverleaf reached a settlement, and work on the project began in October.

Dave Tuohey, spokesman for the cooperative, confirmed Thursday that two people from the cooperative did meet with the Hancock Selectmen this week to discuss a payment in lieu of taxes program, but he had yet to learn the details of the meeting. “The cooperative is obligated to make a payment in lieu of taxes to the town,” he said. The construction of the wind turbines is expected to be completed before Thanksgiving, according to project officials.

Tuohey said the cooperative understood from the onset of the project that it would have to make a payment in lieu of taxes to Hancock, and in this case, they just didn’t have an agreement in place before the shovels were put in the ground. “The timing of agreements vary from project to project and town to town,” he said.

Tuohey said once the turbines are built, the remaining work will include wiring the turbines together for the electrical system, connecting the system to a substation, and making a connection to the electric grid. The cooperative hopes to have the wind turbines generating electricity by March 2011, he said.