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Watertown Daily Times, March 12, 2015

When it came to proclaiming widespread support for another Galloo Island wind farm project, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators believes that Donald C. Alexander counted his chickens before they hatched.

Mr. Alexander, chief executive officer of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, said in a story Friday in the Watertown Daily Times that a wind farm being proposed by the Albany-based Hudson Energy Development LLC shouldn’t be as controversial as the previous project pursued by Upstate NY Power Corp. of West Seneca. A payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement proposed by Upstate NY Power Corp. was approved unanimously in 2010 by the town of Hounsfield and Sackets Harbor Central School District. But it narrowly made it through the county legislature by an 8-7 vote after a protracted and contentious debate.

The latest plan calls for an underwater transmission line rather than an overland line, an idea that made the previous project so objectionable. No land line should make the project more amenable to opponents, Mr. Alexander claimed.

County Legislator Scott A. Gray, however, believes Mr. Alexander has painted too rosy a picture. He said there doesn’t appear to be sufficient support on the legislature for a PILOT agreement this time around.

“Mr. Gray said Donald C. Alexander has misrepresented support for a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement planned by Hudson Energy Development LLC of Albany without giving the Board of Legislators time to learn about the 32-turbine, 106-megawatt proposal,” according to a story Monday in the Watertown Daily Times. “Given the number of legislators who probably would oppose a PILOT, Mr. Gray said, he believes Mr. Alexander has publicly misrepresented the level of support expected for the project.”

“Basically, he’s blatantly trying to back us into a corner by positioning this like it shouldn’t be a problem and is going to be approved by all of the taxing jurisdictions,” said Mr. Gray, who also sits on the JCIDA board. “So if something happens and it fails at our board, we accept the blame for killing the project.”

A PILOT for this project would result in Hudson paying less than a third of what it would without the agreement. The three taxing jurisdictions would give up $2.22 million a year for 20 years – a total of $44.4 million. For a proposed wind farm that provides essentially no local jobs, this doesn’t make sense.

No long-term economic benefit

About the only jobs it would create are those for the construction workers contracted to prepare the site and build the wind turbines. While those jobs are attractive, they disappear after the construction is completed. Relatively few people — and they would be highly skilled, outside contractors well-versed in high-tech turbine maintenance — would be required to maintain the turbines, so there would be virtually no long-term economic benefit for the region.

Mr. Alexander also dismisses concerns about a landscape dotted with towering turbines, which he described as the “size of a thimble.” Each proposed turbine is taller than those on Wolfe Island, which are visible from Thompson Park in the city.

This curious characterization of the turbines led Paul J. Warneck, director of Jefferson County Real Property Tax Services, to observe:

“I think for Don Alexander to minimize the impact as it relates to the south end of Cape Vincent, town of Lyme and town of Henderson is a mistake and ill conceived. There’s no doubt in my mind, depending on how they light these towers, that they’ll be seen from that distance. The supporters who believe you’re not going to see them are just totally misleading the public. When you’re fishing on Galloo Island, you can plainly see the Wolfe Island turbines — and they’re about 15 miles away.”

PILOTs should be reserved for projects that contribute ongoing benefits to the local economy. The loss in property taxes can be mitigated by the increase in permanent employment opportunities. More people with good-paying jobs will spend their discretionary income in the area.

If Hudson Energy wishes to construct a wind farm on Galloo Island, it must compensate all Jefferson County residents by being required to pay its full share of property taxes. Questions over why taxpayers should underwrite a project that provides no permanent jobs and whether it would create a visible impact on the pristine nature of the eastern basin of Lake Ontario make this proposal a poor candidate for any PILOT agreement.


See original article for comments: “Wind not wanted in this area.”