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Commissioners continue to seek options to rescind solar farm tax abatement

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The Sullivan County Commissioners continued to explore its options last week on rescinding a tax abatement for a solar farm project near Sullivan.

“We gave permission for Ann (county attorney Mischler) to contact the lawyer who was involved, Lou Britton, to see what procedures we need to go through to find out whether the tax abatement can be relinquished from them,” commissioners’ president Bob Davis said. 

“Because we feel like they have not abided by the memorandum of understanding way back when we started this.”

Commissioner Ray McCammon made this in the form of a motion, which resulted in a 3-0 vote — joined in favor by John Waterman Sr. and Davis.

“Do we have any ideas if we have a leg to stand on?” McCammon asked. “Because we proposed a memorandum of understanding to the (county) council with our recommendations. I made it very plain to this company that they had to follow every step.”

If you recall, the commissioners approved Mischler in a similar motion at a September meeting to talk with Britton about the tax abatement options.

The council rescinded the abatement in their June meeting, stating Cypress Creek Renewables did not live up to a commitment to install more sophisticated solar panels that rotate with the sun, instead of the stationary panels. Another reason was alleged payment of lower construction wages than originally stated.

McCammon clarified one bone of contention mentioned in that council meeting.

“I do know there was a lot of discussion about the panels that follow the sun, but that was not included in the (original) memorandum,” he said.

“We may have talked about it, but it was not acted on,” Mischler agreed.

The council reversed course on its rescinding of the abatement in late July, due to not meeting a deadline to conduct a public hearing.

The original tax abatement was approved by a narrow 4-3 council vote in Feb. 2015. Cypress Creek Renewables actually completed the project in Sept. 2016, after the project was sold to them by juwi solar Inc., which had received the abatement.

In other business:

• The commissioners approved Davis to sign a letter of intent naming Mischler to be the county’s representative on the White River Military Coordination Alliance.

The WRMCA is a regional group formed earlier this year to improve communications between NSA/Crane/Lake Glendora Test Facility and its surrounding communities.

Mischler noted the group met in late September, but no one from Sullivan County had been invited. She said its next meeting is set for Nov. 30.

The city of Sullivan has not yet appointed a representative to the group.

• Waterman requested the commissioners look into increasing the hourly pay rate to $16 for the county highway department’s CDL drivers and operators.

“We’re having a hard time filling those positions with qualified guys,” he said.

The hourly rate in 2018 has been $14.68, which will be upped to $15.16 in 2019.

• The commissioners updated its county utility policy for installing water lines to new customers, based on input provided by Ken Miller, Shelburn Water Company.

The commissioners stated any water line request must be at least at minimum a 4-inch line or there would be no reimbursement.

• The commissioners tabled a request from Jerry Brodie about placement on the first responders’ corner — northeast corner of the courthouse — of a statue or plaque recognizing fallen former Sullivan city police officer Rob Pitts.

“We need to know what it is to give any permission,” Davis said. 

Brodie first approached the commissioners of this idea in May.

• The commissioners conducted a first reading on American Land Holdings Inc.’s request for a two-year extension of road closures on CRs 825S (3,100 feet in length), 850S (2,150 feet) and 900S (2,230 feet).

These closures are in place currently for mining work at Peabody Coal’s Bear Run Mine.

• The commissioners tabled any action on a reassessment issue with county assessor Vicki Talpas.


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