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Another wind farm is planned for county

Another wind mill farm will be coming to Wilbarger County.
The Wilbarger County Commissioners Court met with representatives of Lincoln Clean Energy on Monday to begin the process for a new wind mill farm, similar to projects Lincoln Clean Energy already has in Wilbarger County. The company previously erected the Electra Farm, which stretches along 287 from Harrold to Oklaunion, and is in the process of erecting the Lockett Farm, south of Vernon.
The newly planned farm will be located on the Waggoner Ranch, according to Lincoln’s Charlie Smith, and is being called the Western Trail project.
Smith asked the commissioners court to designate the area as a reinvestment zone, to allow the company to begin the process of seeking tax abatements and working with the local school district for a Texas tax code Chapter 313 agreement.
Smith told the commissioners that it is proposed to generate 250 to 350 megawatt and be around 100 turbines.
“Right now we are in the developmental stage. We have a lease with the Waggoner Ranch for 20,000 acres of land,” Smith said.
He said that construction would likely not begin until 2021 and the project would come on line in 2022.
Smith said there had been some negative reaction in the legislature to giving windmill farms special incentives, like the 313 waiver which allows a cash payment in lieu of paying property taxes (PILOT), and he believed the incentive would be done away with — that was prompting the company to act quickly.
“We wanted to start the process here. Get the applications in and hopefully be grandfathered in on the 313. There shouldn’t be much activity for a while,” he said. “The first step is getting the county to designate a reinvestment zone so we can qualify for tax abatements.”
Commissioner John Wright asked how many of the wind mills on the ranch would be in Wilbarger County.
“All of them,” Smith answered.
Wright responded that they were asking for a big area of land to be designated as the reinvestment zone – basically all of the Ranch in Wilbarger County.
“We may need to shift the location around. We are still negotiating the turbines’ locations,” Smith said.
County Judge Greg Tyra said that at one time the whole county was designated a reinvestment zone, but now each wind mill farm likes its own reinvestment zone designation.
Smith agreed, saying the lawyers preferred it
“Any downside?” Wright asked, of making a reinvestment zone.
“I don’t see any downside to it,” County Attorney Cory Curtis said.
“So its just a formal matter to allow you to apply?” Wright asked.
“Yes,” Smith answered.
Wright made a motion for the Western Trail Reinvestment Zone, and it was unanimously approved.
Commissioner Phillip Graf then asked Smith for an update on the current wind farm project that stretches along 433, east of 283.
Smith said a handful of turbines needed to be erected, and then electrical testing would have to be done.
“Probably by early July it will operational,” Smith said.
Proclamation issued
The commission approved a resolution with 1st Step Program of Wichita Falls, designating April as sexual assault awareness month in Wilbarger County. Delran Andrews, with 1st Step, read the proclamation with the goal to raise awareness of the issue to raise awareness of the need to ask for consent.
The program’s hotline to get help is 1-800-658-2683, and is available 24 hours a day. The program has staff available to assist in Wilbarger County.
Financials reviewed
County Auditor Sid Beebe presented the auditor’s statement of financial condition for March,
“Everything looks strong,” he reported.
Sales tax returns were up 12 percent, property tax collections were a little above 96 percent of budget, delinquent collections were 24 percent ahead of last year.
Beebe reported that military helicopters had refueled at the airport and bought about 6,000 gallons of fuel – which was very helpful for the airport since sales were down otherwise due to the renovations going on at the airport.
Wright noted that the military crews were appreciative of the hospitality Vernon showed in providing food and drinks during their stopover.
Beebe also present the quarterly investment report, ending March 31. He said there were no big changes. He said yields on CDs were going up, with the best return at 3.3 percent.
He said the county had 2.2 million in excess reserves invested, with about $2.1 million in CDs, $66,000 in a money market in Wichita Falls.
Commissioner Wright asked if anything was invested in local banks.
Beebe said yes, but it didn’t show on the report, that it was in interest bearing checking at Herring. He added the interest on checking was so good there, and it was readily available that there was no need to invest it in a long-term account
Other action
The commission approved a budget amendment to pay for the emergency notification system. Beebe said that the county switched to HyperReach from Code Red last year.
“They didn’t bill us for the first year. We are actually paying for two years,” he told the commission.
The budget increase is for $2,305. It was a approved on a motion from Graf.
Previous meeting minutes and the payment of county bills were unanimously approved on a motion from commissioner Wright.

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