Governor Hassan signed a bill Wednesday that keeps about two dozen residents of tiny Millsfield in the North Country from having to pay huge increase in property tax bills...
Millsfield was facing the increase in the state tax bill because of a deal Coos County commissioners – Paul Grenier, Tom Brady and Bing Judd - made in 2008.
That’s when they decided the value of a newly proposed wind farm –mostly in Millsfield - was $113 million.
That amount was based on a remark made by a state official at an informal, educational meeting. Late last month the New Hampshire Supreme Court criticized the Coos officials for not properly researching the value of the wind farm.
That $113 million figure was part of a controversial payment-in-lieu-of-taxes or "PILOT" agreement.
But in 2012 - with the wind farm operating - the state said it had no choice but to review the value. It concluded the Granite Reliable wind farm was worth twice as much.
Suddenly little Millsfield owed $800,000 since the Pilot agreement limited Granite Reliable’s payment to about $500,000 a year. So, the wind farm couldn’t be forced to pay extra.
Millsfield’s savings were largely wiped out by that bill. And, it was facing another huge payment, the exact amount not yet determined.
But the bill signed by Hassan locks the value of the wind farm at $113 million for the length of the pilot agreement which could be as long as 20 years.
"This has been a long process, but finally the tax base in Millsfield and Dixville has been stabilized and with it a significant obstacle to the development of the former Balsams Resort has been lifted,” Senator Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat who represents the North Country, said in a statement.
Dixville also has part of the wind farm and some officials in the North Country worried a sudden tax burden falling primarily on the Balsams would deter the investments needed for a renovation.
The bill’s primary sponsor is Robert Theberge, a Democrat from Berlin.