During their April 29 meeting, commissioners declined to give a tax abatement to Lincoln Renewable Energy which wanted to build he turbines.
Commissioner Carlos Salazar, after the issue failed to get a second and died during Monday’s court meeting, said, “Even though we didn’t grant the reinvestment zone and tax abatement, this company still has the ability to go before these landowners to build these windmills.”
Will Furgeson, development manager at Lincoln, said this week that they still plan to continue working with the county on the project as they will need road access and other assistance.
“I think right now we are certainly planning on continuing with development,” he said.
He admits that without the abatement, the project will be more difficult. “Obviously the project is a lot more feasible when we have those agreements in place.”
This is the second time commissioners have discussed the issue. They held a public hearing, required before any zone and abatement could be implemented, but delayed voting on the issue due to an error on the meeting agenda.
Commissioner Kenneth Haggard, into whose precinct these farms would fall, said that Lincoln Renewable Energy was making provisions, including offering bonds for the deconstruction of the windmills when production stopped, to prevent the area from being littered with derelict turbines.
“When the project is over, you won’t see them any more,” Haggard said. “It will not be like the state of California, where you see them everywhere.”
Haggard said that this proposed wind farm would be a benefit to his area which has seen little financial influx from the recent Eagle Ford Shale drilling boom.
“This is a little different than you have seen in the past,” he said. “Whether they are or are not, an eyesore is a personal thing.
“It is actually a small shot for the businesses and people that live down there.
“How many people is it going to employ? I don’t know yet. It may be several. It may be more. These are unforeseen numbers.
“I just want the public to know that any business brought into Bee County is a business that Bee County needs.”
Opposition came from his fellow commissioners including Dennis DeWitt, who said that his first concern was the abatement.
“We are in the free enterprise system in the U.S.
“If they cannot compete without federal and local subsides, something is wrong.
“Someone else needs to come in who can.
“If these companies feel like they are profitable, they could come in without the county tax abatement.”
DeWitt, who does own property in southern Bee County, said that he has also heard from people concerned not just about possible decrease in property values but also the aesthetics of a windmill farm on the open countryside.
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez also voiced concern about the abatement, simply saying, “There are a lot more minuses than pluses.”
Two residents spoke during the public forum against the abatement, and one spoke in favor.
Cissy Beasley reiterated that she was opposed to the abatement and that the company had enough financial backing without the county sacrificing funds.
“I fail to understand why it is Bee County’s responsibility if a private company is competitive.
“I would hate to see 10 years of tax revenue cast aside for a company that appears to have plenty of resources.”
Jimmy Jackson, another resident, added that abatements should be for those companies which are adding to the overall job base of the area.
“Tax abatements historically have been given to companies bringing a lot of jobs into a community.
“This is not the case. The wind farms are going to be constructed by outside firms that are going to come in, and then they are going to leave. We are going to have a few maintenance workers left over — certainly doesn’t justify any kid of tax abatement.”
Unlike in the prior meeting, this time one person spoke in favor of the wind farms.
Jim McDonald, longtime area resident, said, “This project is going to be in the area where I live. We haven’t benefited any from the Eagle Ford.
“This gives landowners a chance to sell caliche to build their roads someplace to do a little work for the company and maybe get some long-term income.
“The people in my area are all for it.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.