Baraga County stands by wind project support

By JOSHUA VISSERS

jvissers@mininggazzette.com

L’ANSE — Discussion of wind turbines dominated Monday’s meeting of the Baraga County Board.

Jim Hahn of the Friends of the Huron Mountains asked commissioners to reconsider their support of the Renewable Energy Systems (RES) project planned for Mount Arvon.

“I won’t rescind,” board member William Menge said.

Menge would have to begin the process since he was the commissioner who proposed the resolution of support, according the County Board Chairman Mike Koskinen.

“I like windmills. I like what they do,” Menge said after the meeting. “The trees that they’re going to cut down, they’re not going to go to waste.”

L’Anse resident Jeffery Loman is concerned that once federal tax subsidies expire after 2020, the state of Michigan’s renewable energy mandates could erode the tax benefit to the local community.

“In order to make these mandates, these laws, they’re going to have to support renewable energy, and wind is in the lead right now,” Loman said, suggesting that support would come in the form of a tax exemption.

“The people who have a windmill on their land, yes, they like it,” said Linda Kinnunen, another L’Anse resident. “We don’t even get to use the electricity.”

The electricity would be put onto the grid, but the renewable energy credits would be applied elsewhere.

Several people present showed support for acquiring a legally binding guarantee of tax benefits for the local community, so new owners couldn’t petition the state government for tax breaks after 2020.

RES says the project would pay out $34 million in taxes over 25 years, but that depends on tax laws remaining the same.

“It’s one of the things we have to watch out for,” Menge said, recalling the problems that have surrounded the L’Anse Warden Power Plant.

Michigan Senate Bill 1031 was also discussed by the commissioners. This bill would exempt any property held by a utility company and installed after 2017 from property taxes. The board voted unanimously to oppose the bill.

The commission also unanimously supported Michigan House Bill 4986, which would recoup the local revenue loss from tax exemptions given to disabled veterans.

“They’d still get their exemption, but it would be in the form of a tax credit,” L’Anse Assessor Jim Fedie said.

The Friends of the Huron Mountains are hosting an informational meeting on wind turbines at 6 p.m. on July 25 at the American Legion Hall in L’Anse.

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