FirstLight settlement on Gill Special Town Meeting warrant

Staff Writer
Published: 1/17/2020 6:25:30 PM
Modified: 1/17/2020 6:24:35 PM

GILL — An ongoing tax dispute with the FirstLight Hydro Generating Co. is expected to be resolved soon, and will involve the Selectboard negotiating with FirstLight to determine an agreeable tax value for the company’s Gill properties.

Authorization for the Selectboard to proceed will be the major article on the warrant for a Special Town Meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. The only other warrant article is a bookkeeping clarification, according to Assessors’ Assistant Lynda Hodsdon Mayo.

Gill’s dispute with FirstLight has been ongoing since 2014, when the power company first challenged its tax bill from Gill. FirstLight has continued to challenge its tax bills in every year since then.

FirstLight did the same regarding its tax bills in Montague. Montague and FirstLight finally settled out of court in the fall, which allowed the town to free up about $800,000 of the money it had been holding in case of an unfavorable court ruling.

In Montague’s case, that influx of newly usable cash is considerable enough that it has become an agenda item for the Finance Committee; although Town Administrator Steve Ellis has noted that it is “not a game-changing amount of money.”

Now, Gill is similarly settling out of court. However, the amount of money Gill has been holding is a smaller proportion of its overall budget than what Montague had been holding, said Gill Town Administrator Ray Purington.

“I would expect that the settlement with FirstLight will be less of a windfall and more of a relief,” he said. “Just glad to have it behind us.”

But any release of newly available funds is still a ways off in the future, Hodsdon Mayo said.

“Right now we’re just going through the steps of settling with this agreement,” she said.

The part the town is working through now is to settle with FirstLight on an amount the company is willing to pay in lieu of taxes for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, Hodsdon Mayo said. The Selectboard needs Town Meeting approval to proceed with negotiations.

What’s complicated is that some of the relevant information is still confidential, Hodsdon Mayo said. Town Meeting voters will get a handout explaining the situation in as much detail as can be publicized, but the town administrator and Board of Assessors are still determining what can be included.

The only other item on the warrant is to move money from an account marked specifically for FirstLight legal expenses to a new one marked for general legal expenses. Hodsdon Mayo described this as effectively changing the name of the account to properly reflect what it needs to be used for.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.




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