Commission considers tax abatement request

Published 4:11 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

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The Lowndes County Economic Development Commission delivered a request to the Lowndes County Commission on June 12, asking commissioners to grant a tax abatement to a developing solar power project aiming to locate in the area.

Attorney Tom Brinkley with the firm Maynard Nexsen explained the request from the as yet unnamed energy producer and fielded questions related to the proposal.

“We have a client who is interested in developing a solar project in Lowndes County,” Brinkley said. “They want to build an 80 megawatt and a 23-megawatt facility sometime in the next year. If all goes forward today, then hopefully [they will develop] another 80-megawatt facility a year after that. This is a significant investment in the range of around $300 million for those three projects.

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According to Brinkley, the international company has owned property in Lowndes County for six years and has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral in the next decade. To facilitate the project, the company is asking for consideration of a 20-year abatement for property tax and the non-education portion of sales and use tax.

Commissioners raised concerns about the community benefits of the project, especially in light of the potential tax revenue loss.

“In the construction phase, which is by far the largest number of jobs, there will be approximately 300 jobs [created], peaking at about 600 jobs over the course of the construction period.

Brinkley said the 35-year project would continue well after the abatement. Once completed, the project would sustain five long-term jobs and pay education taxes of about $1.8 million into Lowndes County Public Schools. Abated taxes would amount to roughly $490,000 a year.

Commissioner Robert Harris questioned Brinkley and noted the benefits to the county seemed low in comparison to what the project coordinators would gain.

“When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, ya’ll (the project coordinators) would have gained more than the county,” Harris said. “If the company plans to be part of the community for 20 years, then why ask for the abatement?”

Harris noted commissioners needed time to review the proposal before voting. No decision was made during the meeting.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved a resolution agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to borrow and accept bond issuance of $800,000 to repair Julian Town Road and Collirene Cutoff Road;
  • Received information about bamboo farming with a request from Cedric Coley of Alabamboo, Inc. for assistance connecting with local farmers;
  • Learned Lee Jackson Farms will receive a $100,000 grant from the USDA);
  • Heard information about efforts between the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission and the Lowndes County Area Chamber of Commerce to establish a health care authority;
  • Discussed economic development initiatives toward affordable housing;
  • Heard County Engineer David Butt’s report;
  • Designated June 19, 2023 as a county holiday recognizing Juneteenth;
  • Considered ambulance service information presented by Kevon Findley with Haynes ambulance;
  • Received a request from Robert Taylor with Taylor Towing, requesting affirmation that wreckers services receive calls on a rotating basis;
  • Heard an update from Emergency Management Agency Director (EMA) Rodney Rudolph on coordinating water system plans for outages;
  • Approved EMA Agency purchase of an Automated Electronic Defibrillator; 
  • Appropriated funds to community organizations: $14,471.34 to Blackbelt/Hickshill Volunteer Fire Department, $14,471.34 to Lowndesboro Volunteer Fire Department, $14,471.34 to Whitehall Volunteer Fire Department; $21,150, $5,321 to Hayneville Volunteer Fire Department, $15,000 to Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department, $15,000 to  Fort Deposit Volunteer Fire Department, $12,000 to Sandy Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, $1,000 to Calhoun Community Organization, $1,200 to Harvest Tyme Ministries, $25,000 to Lowndes County Sewage Board, $2,500 to Step Program, $2,500 to Hayneville Library; and
  • Learned plans for alerting voters about commission redistricting.

The commission reconvened on June 20 to complete unfinished business. During this session, the commission:

  • Discussed various roads to install pipes with funding from an Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) grant;
  • Approved a loan with Kansas Bank to replace six dump trucks;
  • Appropriated $19,425 to OCAP/ Approved letter to the State Highway Department for water lines for the Lowndes County Health Department;
  • Appropriated $17,245 to Collirene Volunteer Fire Department; and
  • Appropriated $17,245 to Blackbelt Hickshill Volunteer Fire Department.

The next scheduled meeting of the commission will take place June 26 at 6:30 p.m.