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Monroe gets ‘windfall’ from windfarm

Recorder file
Wind turbines are up and running in Monroe.

Recorder file Wind turbines are up and running in Monroe.

MONROE — What would you do if your annual income jumped 15 percent in one year?

That’s the situation in Monroe, population 121, thanks to revenue from the Hoosac Wind Power Project.

In April, this tiny town received its first semi-annual “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” check of $54,000 for the nine 1.5-megawatt windmills atop Crum Hill. Tax Collector Marcella Stafford-Gore, who is also town clerk and the town’s administrative assistant, says the town will receive $108,000 per year in PILOT fees for the next 20 years. Monroe will also get proceeds for leasing town-owned land to Iberdrola Renewables LLC, the wind farm’s owner-operator.

Without the wind farm money, Stafford-Gore says the town raises less than $500,000 in taxes. The Monroe tax levy in fiscal year 2011 was $460,343, according to the state Department of Revenue; and last year, according to the Boston Globe, it was $486,716.

“A little over one-third of that is paid in personal property taxes by TransCanada Hydro,” explained Stafford-Gore, referring to the owners of the Sherman Hydroelectric Station. “Most of the rest comes from homeowners.”

“If the wind farm (payment) was based on personal property taxes,” said Stafford-Gore, “we would be getting a lot more.”

There are only 64 single-family properties in Monroe, according to the DOR.

With state aid and other revenues factored in, Monroe’s total revenues for FY 2012 were $731,385.

Stafford-Gore says the additional $108,000 “will give us extra money when we do need things that we don’t have to raise through taxation. For our General Fund, that’s a $100,000 per year that we could use in lieu of raising it with taxes.”

For instance, at the annual town meeting on June 24, residents will be asked to spend up to $75,000 from its “free cash” reserve funds, which includes the money from the wind farm payments.

Stafford-Gore said the new funds will help pay a request of $65,000 for a new four-wheel-drive truck for the Highway Department. Also, the money will help the town to build a new fire station/highway department municipal building. This year’s warrant asks voters to transfer $30,000 from its surplus into a stabilization account for the new municipal building.

The first of the wind turbines started turning in December, and the full 19-turbine wind farm (with 10 turbines in neighboring Florida) is expected to generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes per year.

The wind turbines are 340 feet tall from the highest blade to the foundation.

Iberdrola Renewables spokesman Paul Copleman said during construction, the Hoosac project employed up to 140 workers and spent $3.9 million locally.

“Over the life of the project, Hoosac will generate approximately $6.8 million in tax revenue for the towns, and lease payment to local landowners (including the towns) will total another $3 million.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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