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College debate ends

Trustees approve wind farm tax abatement

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Trustees approve wind farm tax abatement

Coastal Bend College Board Chairwoman Laura Fisher continued to voice concern that the new wind farm company may not hire Bee County employees for the project.

BEEVILLE – Quite possibly the final county entity has agreed, making way for a wind farm to be built in the Tynan area.

Coastal Bend College trustees approved their tax abatement to Avangrid Renewables  last week. The company is planning the construction of this wind farm stretching from southern Bee County into San Patricio County.

“You will see... that year one continues to be at 100 percent,” CBC President Beatriz Espinoza read aloud from the abatement agreement to the board members during their Tuesday meeting last week. “Years two through nine continue to be at 60 percent.

“In years seven through nine, they are ensuring the tax payment to the college is not less than $717 per installed megawatt for the windmills constructed in Bee County.”

There was no mention of the megawatts expected from this wind farm during the board meeting.

During a meeting before county commissioners, Jason Du Terroil, Avangrid business development director, said that the wind farm is expected to produce 286 megawatts, and construction is planned to begin in the fall of next year. That estimate would be for the entire farm which spans into the neighboring county.

Bucky Brannen, a tax attorney with Baker Botts, representing Avangrid, estimated to trustees that 24 windmills are going to be built in Bee County.

As has been the case in the other agreements, this abatement does not apply to the debt repayment portion of the college’s tax rate. It only applies to the tax rate that funds the college’s operation.

The college’s agreement comes with a perquisite that will benefit the students.

“The owner, which is Avangrid, agrees to pay the college $180,000 in order to benefit the county and support the college’s economic plan,” Espinoza said.

Money from this agreement will pay for a sidewalk that will link the sidewalk expected to be constructed by the city with the dorms on the college’s campus.

Any remaining funds from that project will go towards student scholarships.

A projected estimate on the cost of this sidewalk was not received when requested from the college.

LNV Engineers are working to obtain approval from the state to build this sidewalk along North St. Mary’s Street from the FM Road 351 bypass to Charco Road and then to the college’s entrance.

The sidewalk will make it easier for students and bicycles to get to the campus, north of the busy intersection.

The city has budgeted $250,000 in 4B sales tax funds for the project.

The college’s portion of the sidewalk would be significantly shorter and far less expensive.

“Would that go to the Coastal Bend College Foundation or would it be used by you directly?” asked Trustee Martha Warner.

“It would go into an endowment to establish scholarships,” Espinoza responded.

A key point of contention in this abatement contract, at least for Board Chairwoman Laura Fischer, was the number of employees guaranteed to be living in Bee County.

“You don’t think we can find any more employees that want to live in Bee County do you?” she asked of the company’s representative.

“The issue is committing to that. That becomes  a tricky deal,” Brannen said. “We also have agreements with San Patricio County, and they have an interest in hiring locally.

“They are aiming to hire locally, but it is tough to commit to that.”

The agreement only stipulates that Avangrid will employee nine people.

“I bet there will be more, but nine is the minimum level they are committing to,” he said.

This concern of hiring local employees or having new employees live in Bee County remained a point of discussion up until the approving vote was taken.

Fischer said after the trustees’ January meeting she was concerned the company could not guarantee the employees hired by the wind farm would be residents of the city or county.

Fischer, after that meeting, said that all of CBC’s past abatement agreements stipulated employment for city or county residents.

Pacific Wind currently is considering a total investment of around $363 million in what is being called Project Karankawa, located near Tynan and San Patricio County.

A majority of the turbines will be in San Patricio County, but $75 million of the project will be located in this county. While the company projects a total of at least nine permanent employees for the entire project, an estimated 300 full-time construction jobs will be needed in the beginning.

The county also recently approved a tax abatement for the wind farm as did the Skidmore-Tynan school trustees.

The county’s agreement calls for a 60 percent abatement each year for 10 years. The county is also receiving a $40,000 up-front payment.

The entire project, as currently proposed, is estimated to consist of 17,500 acres and 115 turbines.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5221, or at

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