County commissioners said Tuesday they want more discussion on a proposal for a 1,200 acre solar farm in Able Springs before taking any action. Enel Green Power North America wants to develop the farm and build batteries to store energy between Highway 34 and State Highway 429 near the northern county line. The company asked for a 70 percent abatement for part of the taxes on the land’s assessed value over 15 years.
“We need this 381 [abatement] agreement before we can move forward,” Clark Bixler, development manager, told commissioners.
Under the agreement, the company would pay no taxes to the county’s maintenance and operation budget for 10 years. Enel would make set payments of $141,000 a year for 10 years and then pay about $46,769 for the following five years. After 15 years, the county could collect taxes on the properties full value of an estimated $17 million. County Judge Jackie Allen said a 70 percent reduction is too high. He said he met with Enel officials earlier and told them he would not support that amount.
“I’d say 50 percent is my limit,” he said after the meeting.
Precinct County Commissioner Skeet Phillips said he prefers to give “zero.” He said he told the company in a closed meeting early in November that “we don’t have that kind of money to give them.”
Some other projects around the state have received 65 percent in abatements. Under a state law, counties can agree to waive all or part of property taxes for a period of years in order to encourage development.
The company plans to put in 618,222 photovoltaic panels generating 151 megawatts of power. The site will also house batteries to store energy, according to the application given to commissioners. The company said the project is a $114.7 million investment in the county. Over the next 15 years, the county would receive $1.5 million in county taxes and an additional $13.6 million would go to the Terrell school district. While under construction, the project would provide hundreds of jobs, but when completed only one employee is anticipated.
Enel plans to start construction of the battery site as soon as the agreement is approved and complete panel installation by the end of the year. The site would be the second solar generating installation in the county, but there is a third one planned, Allen said.
Phillips said he has concerns about dedicating so much land to solar farms. “We may need that land,” for future development.
Commissioners took no action on the proposal. “There are too many unresolved issues,” Allen said.
Commissioners did pass a resolution asking State Rep. Keith Bell and State Sen. Bob Hall to ask the legislature to approve another district court for the county. Deborah Overton Bonner, assistant district attorney, said growth in the county is creating heavy workloads in the two current courts and the state Office of Court Administration agreed another judge is needed.
If approved, it would take two years for the court to begin operation. The judge would be elected.
The state pays the judge’s salary, but the county pays all other costs.
“There would be several employees,” Allen said.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.