Photo By Steve Fuller

County hears ideas for Bull Hill windfall

Photo By Steve Fuller
County commissioners Steven Joy and Percy

ELLSWORTH — County commissioners heard lots of ideas Feb. 27 on what to do with what one of them described as a “jackpot of money” from the Bull Hill wind farm.

As part of what is known as a community benefit arrangement, project developer First Wind will pay Hancock County $200,001 annually for the next 20 years. That totals $4 million over two decades.

That money is separate from any taxes First Wind pays.

The community benefit funds, as the annual payments are known, are required under state law because First Wind sought expedited permitting for the project. The exact payment amount was negotiated by First Wind and county officials.

The money is to be used for “public purposes, including, but not limited to, for property tax reductions, economic development projects, land and natural resource conservation, tourism promotion or reduction of energy costs,” according to state law.

Bull Hill began producing energy last fall, and the county has already received its first community benefit payment. Commissioners held a public hearing to get input on what the money should be used for.

Speakers included:

• Child & Family Opportunities (CFO) Board member Grant Lee. He said Head Start is “one of the more important programs” CFO offers that could benefit from the funds.

• Amanda Billings, of Maine Coast Community Dental Clinic. Billings said the program needs to “find supplemental funding to offset the cost of our charity care.” She said the program serves residents across the county through its portable clinics.

• Ellsworth resident Bill Beardsley. He said the county could set up a program to train Northern New England’s “most skilled, low-skilled workers.” He suggested a niche program, such as motor and small engine repair.

“It could make quite a difference in the economy of the county on a relatively small cash flow,” Beardsley said, noting such services are in demand by businesses in the county.

• Ellsworth City Planner Michele Gagnon. She asked for support for the city’s Knowlton Park project, which she said will have an impact “far beyond the city.”

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Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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