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Wind farm windfall for Groton in question

by Thomas P. Caldwell

GROTON — Selectmen are continuing to look into the claim by Grafton County Commissioner Martha Richards that the Groton Wind Farm is boosting the town's county property tax assessment from $109,000 last year to $316,909 this year.
Selectmen have been largely silent on the claim, and the Grafton County Commissioners' Office has not confirmed Richards' figures, which she presented during the Sept. 30 meeting of the Alexandria Board of Selectmen. Alexandria was discussing the Spruce Ridge Project in which EDP Renewables hopes to build an array of wind turbines along ridges in Alexandria, Groton, Hebron, and Orange.
If Richards is correct, Groton will be picking up a much larger share of the county budget which, in turn, will lower the tax assessments for most other towns in Grafton County, many of which have gone on record as being opposed to the Groton Wind Farm.
At their Oct. 7 meeting, the Groton Board of Selectmen said they have been in touch with the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration, which sets the tax rate, and with legal experts looking into the effect of HB-1549 which was adopted July 28 and was effective upon passage. The new law, which Governor Maggie Hassan has signed, clarifies the assessment of renewable generation facility property that is subject to a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement.
"The DRA assessed the Groton Wind Farm as of May 1, assessing it at full market value," said Selectman Christina Goodwin. "The bill that took effect in July would change that process to take the PILOT agreement into consideration."
PILOT-affected facilities are to be taxed at their equalized value under the new law, having the effect of lowering the assessment.
As of Tuesday, the town did not know whether the new law would apply to this year's taxes. The wind farm assessment also could change as a result of Groton Wind's appeal of the May assessment. The DRA is just beginning the process of setting 2014 tax rates for the towns.
Selectman Kyle Andrews said, as it stands, the DRA has assessed the town at about $77 million and the wind farm at $126 million.
The county tax assessment will be based upon the town's net assessed valuation, and that is the number the selectmen are waiting to see. The town's net assessed valuation in 2013 was $77,378,166.
If Richards' numbers prove to be true, Groton's PILOT agreement will more than cover the increase in county taxes. The agreement calls for Groton Wind to pay the town $528,000 the first year, increasing by 2.5 percent each year thereafter. Selectmen, however, were reluctant to say that the town will come out ahead, not knowing the final numbers and how they would affect the other portions of the tax rate: local school and state education assessments.
Andrews did note that the town anticipated a higher assessment because of the wind farm, "but I'm not sure we expected it to be that much," he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 12:29

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Correction: Bike Week Association receives grants from the state

CORRECTION — An article in Wednesday's edition of the Laconia Daily Sun about the financial problems facing the Laconia Motor Cycle Week Association contained two errors.

The first mistakenly suggested that the budget for payroll, benefits and associated costs of $132,500 included expenses "from the state." In fact, the association receives a grant from the state and incurs no expenses to it.

The article also implied that in 2003-2004 the city of Laconia withdrew from the association for a year. Although the city briefly suspended its membership, it has belonged to the association without interruption since it was established in 1991.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 12:11

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Motorcycle cruising on Rte. 104 hit by merging car

MEREDITH — An unidentified 44-year-old Northfield man was taken by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center yesterday after the motorcycle he was riding collided with a car that apparently pulled out in front of him at the intersection of Rte. 104 and Meredith Center Road.

The crash happened at 8:33 a.m. and traffic was slowed through Route 104 and Meredith Center Road.

Det. Crp. John Eichhorn said yesterday that man suffered serious injuries to his lower extremities a well as internal injuries during the crash. He said he is expected to survive.

He said the 28-year-old driver of the car was uninjured.

Eichhorn said police have ruled out alcohol or drugs but said the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 01:50

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Community college presents plans for new building

LACONIA — Officials of Lakes Region Community College, including President Scott Kalicki, presented a proposal to construct a new building to house the school's automotive programs to the Planning Board on Tuesday night. The presentation was a courtesy, since the board has no authority to approve or disapprove of projects undertaken by government entities.

The Automotive Service Education Building, consisting of 21,000-square-feet of space, will be built adjacent to the space where the programs have been housed at a cost of $2.5 million.

"It's been a long time coming," said Tom Goulette, vice-president of academic and community affairs at the college, who added that enrollment in both the General Motors and generic automotive programs have grown significantly. "We are teaching days, evenings and Saturdays to accommodate the number of students," he said.

Goulette said that once the new building is complete, planning will begin to renovate the vacated space, which will become home to the culinary arts program. In 2012 the culinary arts program moved to Canterbury Shaker Village, where the teachers and students manage and operate the popular Shaker Table restaurant. "It's been a great partnership," Goulette said, adding that enrollments have swelled rapidly since the college partnered with Canterbury Shaker Village.

The new building will be the third constructed on the campus atop Prescottt Hill in the last 10 years. In 2004, the 34,000 square-foot Center for Arts and Technology, a $5.7-million project, followed in 2012 by the Health and Science Building of 27,000 square feet built at a cost of $6.4-million. The three buildings are the first additions to the campus since the main building was constructed in 1968.

"We have been extremely fortunate," Goulette said, "and all this investment has gone directly to serving our students."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 01:46

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