Many Sherman County residents will have a nice little bonus just in time for the holidays, thanks to the wind turbines dotting the county.
Sherman County commissioners announced this week that the county is distributing nearly $350,000 in wind farm payments to county residents. A total of 593 households in the county qualified and on Dec. 10, the county will mail each of them a $590 check from the county’s Strategic Investment Plan (SIP).
SIP itself is funded by wind farm owners. The State of Oregon gives an exemption from property taxes above the first $25 million to certain qualified developments in rural areas. That program allows local entities to negotiate “in lieu” payments or community service fees equal to 25 percent of exempt taxes, up to $500,000 per year. With several such wind farms in the county and more coming, Sherman County has a steady stream of money coming for a number of years.
Rather than simply tossing the new revenue into the general fund, the county put together a Wind Revenue Advisory Committee. One of their suggestions was to share some of the funds directly with local residents.
According to Commissioner Mike Smith, the qualifications for the payment are simple. “You have to be a resident of Sherman County for one year, have not been absent from the county for more than 90 days, and since this payment is for each qualified home you need to be chosen as the head of household by those living in the home.”
Both renters and homeowners qualified for the payments.
“The wind tower developments have had an effect on everyone in the county,” Smith said, “so we should all be treated equally. This way everyone in our community can be involved and invested in the success of wind power in Sherman County.”
The amount of the payment, he said, was due to the amount of money set aside this year for the fund and the number of qualifying applicants. Because the amount was below $600, the county did not have to send 1099 forms to the residents and the Internal Revenue Service.
There were some hiccups in the program’s first year, Smith said. “There are close to 1,000 homes in our county and some that would have qualified did not apply or applied past the cut-off date of Aug 31st,” he said.
The county did send two mailers to every home, ran newspaper ads, and posted information on a widely read e-mail newsletter.
Even so, some homeowners missed the boat.
“Although we seriously considered all appeals, we had to follow the rules that had been set in the ordinance that authorized these payments,” Smith said. “We all believe next year most everyone will apply and we are enthusiastic about the continuation of this payment over the life of the SIP agreements.”
By Rodger Nichols, The Chronicle – http://www.thedalleschronicle.com/news/2009/11/news11-22-09-02.shtml