County gives solar project green light with 80 percent tax abatement
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
PRESIDIO COUNTY – Presidio County commissioners and County Judge Paul Hunt voted unanimously to extend a 10-year, 80 percent tax abatement to Bryan Solar for the construction of a solar energy project near Presidio.
The Delaware Corporation came to commissioners months ago with a proposal to build a 10 mega-watt solar panel facility on the outskirts of Presidio. During that time, commissioners worked on an economic development program policy as well as a tax abatement guideline policy.
“We have an existing economic development policy that provides for giving tax incentives for economic development purposes,” Hunt said, noting that the solar power project falls under that policy.
“We’re stepping up to the important stages to apply our policy,” the judge added.
The agreement that Hunt had brought to the table Tuesday night regarding Bryan Solar was a tax rebate program, not a tax abatement, in which Bryan Solar would pay their taxes in full and then get reimbursed at the end of the year. The proposal was for a 20-year, 75 percent tax rebate.
“Keep in mind that this would add significant amount of revenue,” Hunt said, adding that this agreement would not affect the taxing of other entities such as Presidio ISD and the hospital district.
“The main advantage of a rebate is it’s not limited to 10 years as an abatement is. The disadvantage is, in my opinion, the company seeking the rebate program bears a lot more risk in the project,” said Hunt.
Hunt also said that the county’s tax rate would likely be reduced significantly, as quick as next year, due to the unanticipated revenue generated from the Rio Grande Mining Company’s mine in Shafter.
“Revenue from the mine was about a quarter of a million dollars,” Hunt said.
“In light of the comments of (tax) rates, the simplicity of abatement versus rebate, I would think an 80 percent abatement for 10 years , given the two options,” said Scott Pryor, a Bryan Solar representative.
“That’s good,” said Commissioner Eloy Aranda.
“We’re very much interested in having you here,” Commissioner Frank “Buddy” Knight said.
Hunt made a motion to approve a contract between the county and the solar outfit using a tax abatement model, at 80 percent abatement, for 10 years. The motion carried. The solar project is expected to be completed in 2013 and will employ up to 100 part-time employees for construction and about three full-time employees.
In other county business, commissioners:
Hired Ruben Carrasco as the Capital Projects Manager for Presidio County. Carrasco, a Presidio resident, has a background in engineering and has led many of the county’s big projects in south Presidio County. The Capital Projects Manager position is a new position that commissioners created in the current budget as part of the county’s reorganization efforts.
Voted against waiving a payment in lieu of taxes from the Housing Authority of Marfa for a little more than $2,000.
Approved an emergency facilities and land use agreement with the Texas Forest Service for emergency air operations for use of Presidio County airports.
Approved an agreement to conduct an archeological survey and site determination for sewer improvement projects.
Awarded Ergon Asphalt a $111,000 contract to supply asphalt for a paving project.
Awarded Jose Armendariz Trucking a $42,000 contract to supply aggregate for the paving project.