Wind farm company details project plans to Pawnee trustees

County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt and County Judge Stephanie Moreno were among those at the Pawnee school board meeting last week. Eric Barnett, director of development with Lincoln Clean Energy, gave a presentation on the proposal to build a wind farm within the Pawnee and Pettus school districts.

PAWNEE – While one county commissioner says he still doesn’t favor a tax abatement for a wind farm in north Bee County, he wants to ensure the Pawnee and Pettus school districts their have the ability to offer their own such agreement.

On Nov. 13, representatives with Lincoln Clean Energy were in Pawnee speaking to members of that school board.

“Eighty percent of the wind farm is in the Pawnee school district,” Eric Barnett, director of development with Lincoln, told school board members. “Twenty percent is in the Pettus school district.”

Among those at the meeting was Commissioner Dennis DeWitt.

“They have between 10,000 and 11,000 acres already under lease,” DeWitt said. “They want about 10,000 acres more.”

A majority of those agreeing initially are the owners of the larger land tracts, including some no longer living in the area.

“From what I am seeing and hearing, a majority of the people that have signed up are the major land owners,” he said. 

The company previously had proposed a similar project focusing more on land in the Mineral community.

“Initially there had quite a bit of pushback in the Mineral area,” he said. 

The Mineral project seems to have stalled with this new construction now taking priority.

“So there won’t be anything in Mineral,” DeWitt said.

Cost of the current project is estimated at $300 million, Barnett told trustees during the Pawnee ISD board meeting.

DeWitt expects Barnett to eventually seek a tax abatement from the county.

“We just updated our reinvestments zone paperwork,” he said. That included a $1,000 fee to make the application.

“These are just the guidelines to apply for an abatement,” said County Judge Stephanie Moreno said during a commissioners court meeting earlier this month.

“I would like to ask them for a financial statement also,” DeWitt added. “I think we should determine if they have financial  capacity when they apply.”

Moreno said each commissioner will be allowed to work with the companies applying in their precincts and if a financial statement is required.

DeWitt added that this information would be viewed in closed session but not made available to the public.

There likely won’t be discussion of this abatement by commissioners yet as the project is still in its early stages. Likewise, the school district cannot offer an agreement unless a reinvestment zone is approved by the county.

“Barnett made the statement this was a three-year process and they are still in year one,” DeWitt said.

The commissioner said he is willing to support the idea of a reinvestment zone as it is required for the school district to consider its own abatement.

“I don’t want to take away their opportunity to do what they want to do,” DeWitt said. 

Unlike other projects in the county, including the hotly contested oil field waste disposal facility proposed within two miles of Pawnee schools, construction of this facility is dependent on enough landowners agreeing, and not state approval.

“I will be the last to tell someone what they can or cannot do on their own property,” DeWitt said. “That is their business.”