“Very significant” is how Clinton County Commissioners President Josh Uitts described the Hardy Hills solar project at Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting held at the Courthouse prior to a series of unanimous votes in favor of advancing the project to its final step – the Area Plan Commission. The Clinton County Council had previously unanimously voted in favor of the project last Tuesday, Sep. 8.
The favorable votes lead to the possible construction of a solar field that would primarily occupy land around Kilmore, extending as far west as N. Co. Road 130 W., as far east as N. Co. Road 100 E., north just beyond E. Co. Road 500 N., and as far south as E. Co. Road 250 N.
An attorney representing the county, Kostas Poulakidas of Taft Law, addressed the three-member board of commissioners to outline the key items contained within the project agreement of the $200 million investment.
Tax abatement. 10-year abatement with the first eight years being 100 percent with the final two years at 75 percent.
In exchange for the abatements, the County will receive $3.1 million in non-restricted economic development payments paid in equal installments over those 10-years.
For every $10 million in additional investment over $200 million made by Hardy Hills, the County will receive an additional $155,000 in non-restricted economic development payments paid in equal installments over those 10-years.
A $15,000 contribution to the EMS project
Poulakidas also explained the assessment methodology used in this project and why it was a challenge. “In the state of Indiana there is not a defined assessment methodology for this type of project.
“It’s new, it’s unique,” Poulakidas said. “Clinton County is kind of leading the way. The Department of Local Government Finance, their guidance is we are going to defer to the locals to provide guidance. Indiana statute allows for what is called ‘Home Rule’ ordinance.”
Uitts asked Clinton County Council President Alan Dunn to speak to the financial impact this project will have on the County.
“From a council’s perspective when looking at this as an economic development project, first of all we did put a lot of time and effort into this,” Dunn said. “Let me put this into context here to scale. This is a $200 million investment in Clinton County and put that into some context – that’s larger than the ConAgra investment, which was near $150 million investment, and that’s five times the NHK investment that is going on out at I-65 and State Road 28. This is a massive project.
“The land on which the project sits on is not abatable,” Dunn continued. “So when we changed that from being farmland to being kind of a modified commercial – industrial, this new class … they’re still going to pay $2.1 million in taxes over that 10-year period that is not being paid currently.
“The County wins in form of the economic development payment of $3.1 million that’s paid at $310,000 per year during the 10-year abatement. We’re not getting nothing during that initial 10-year period.
“So over the course of the projected 35-year project, the project receives an $11 million cumulative tax abatement, but they’re going to pay tax bills that total $41 million for a net payment of $30 million to the County in property taxes paid.”
After the four votes were taken – approval of the project agreement, approval of the ordinance establishing an assessment methodology, approval of the road use agreement, and approval of the decommission agreement – Uitts explained the significance of the actions taken today.
“Today was a very important day for Clinton County,” said Uitts. “We were able to bring in the largest investment in the history of Clinton County in terms of a solar project from Invenergy, the Hardy Hills project. It represents a $200 million investment in Clinton County.
“At a high level what that represents to the folks of Clinton County, that is a lot of tax money they are not going to have to pay for the next 35-years,” Uitts continued. “For the foreseeable future we’re going to have economic development payments for the next 10-years that are going to be discretionary.
“A considerable amount of funds that are going to be over $300,000 plus per year that we are going to be able to spend on anything in our budget. Then beyond that from year eleven through the end of the project, they will pay approximately $2.1 million per year in tax. That is an incredible amount of money for the people of Clinton County.
“This is a project that respects property owner rights – that the farmers can use their land for what they wish to. It’s not really that big of an imposition on fellow property owners. The project itself includes a tremendous amount of planting of trees, natural grasses. It’s going to be very nice.”