Kevin Kelly Defends Energy Cooperative on 'Bullying' Charge
The Board of Selectmen of Hancock Massachusetts, a town located at the most western part of the state in Berkshire County, hard by the New York border, with a population of only 717 residents and a very small tax base, is accusing Berkshire Wind Power Project, a cooperative owned by 14 eastern towns, including the Town of Groton, with attempting to bully them into accepting lower payments for the energy produced by a controversial wind turbine facility atop Brodie Mountain. The cooperative owns the 10-turbine facility in Hancock.
"Berkshire Wind's offer is ridiculous," Shem Derby, First Selectmen of the Town of Hancock said, "We will not let those 14 towns in the east run roughshod over our small town here in the Berkshires. If they send us a check for less than all they owe us for 2014, including interest and penalties, we'll send the check right back to them," Derby said. "If any homeowner in town failed to pay their taxes on time, they would be penalized and charged interest. We see no reason why the BWPCC should be treated any differently."
Kevin Kevin, Manager of the GELD Groton Electric Light Department, said that the Town of Hancock is attempting to 'squeeze' the Berkshire Wind Cooperative to increase the PILOT payment to the Town of Hancock. Kelly pointed out that the Berkshire Wind PILOT payment is in excess of 3% of the revenues generated by the turbines.The turbines are not on land owned by the Town of Hancock, so the payment is only in lieu of personal property tax.
First Selectman Derby says Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corporation (BWPCC), which operates Berkshire Wind on Brodie Mountain, is "nickel and diming us to death" in its effort to reduce the $156,600 in annual payments it has been required to pay the town in lieu of taxes since 2011.
GELD Manager Kevin Kelly pointed out that the wind turbines are now three years old and are depreciating. By way of comparison, he said there is another 10-turbine wind farm relatively close by, in the town of Florida, MA that is paying substantially less for a PILOT payment.
First Selectman Sherm Derby said Hancock Selectmen will meet at noon Tuesday, March 3 in Town Hall to vote on a motion to require the BWPCC to pay $156,600 plus interest and penalties it owes the town for 2014 and to renew its contract for the next three years or face a lien on its property.
GELD Manager Kelly said that the Cooperative is on very solid ground trying to reduce the PILOT payment from $156k to $150k and that the town cannot force Berkshire Wind to pay more.
"We will vote to put a lien on their property if they do not pay us what they owe us and agree to a fair deal for the next three years." Derby said. "It really is outrageous that the BWPCC is actually generating greater profits than expected from the power generated by the wind turbines yet wants to reduce payments to our town," he added.