DIXFIELD — Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky believes a wind farm project together with a tax incentive financing program holds a potentially huge financial opportunity for the town.
He voiced that assessment following a presentation by Mathew Eddy, director of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta, who spoke to selectmen and about 25 residents about TIFs Monday night.
“Money generated from a mountain TIF can be transferred to downtown needs,” Skibitsky said. Such funds, estimated at about $400,000 a year from a projected $30 million wind farm project, could be used for such economic develop projects as road construction, beautifying the downtown and myriad other things in the Main and Weld streets area.
He said as outlined under a TIF, the added value to the town would be sheltered so that state revenue sharing and school subsidies would not be reduced and Oxford County taxes would not go up. A vision for the town for the next 20 years is part of a plan that must be developed if the town goes with such a TIF.
“The selectmen have to figure out how to approach this. They have time. We just passed a moratorium (for six months),” he said. The developers, Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., must also undergo a lengthy Department of Environmental Protection process. The company has proposed building 14 or 15 industrial wind turbines on the ridge that includes Col. Holman Mountain.
“But with every good thing, there are strings attached,” Skibitsky said. “We don’t know all the rules and the strings. We’re in a huge learning phase. We’ve seen the potential, now we have to learn the details.”
The next step will be determined by the selectmen when they meet on April 26. Also, Mike Rogers, a representative from Maine Revenue Services, is scheduled to present his department’s assessment of the TIF program. That meeting is tentatively set for May 24, Rogers said. He plans to discuss the tax implications at that meeting. “There are many uses for a TIF,” he said Thursday morning.
Skibitsky said Eddy will help the town with whatever next steps it decides to pursue. The Augusta firm was hired by the town with up to $10,000 provided by Patriot Renewables to help town officials with a possible TIF project.
“This is a clean project and doesn’t call for extra police, fire or school services. We want people to let selectmen known how they feel about this possibility,” Skibitksy said.
Whatever plan selectmen may choose, the final say on whether to enter into a TIF agreement must be approved by residents. A special town meeting or some other method for election will likely be called prior to the expiration of the just adopted six-month moratorium extension. The Department of Economic and Community Development must also approve any TIF plan.