Brown County Commissioners Monday designated the entire county outside incorporated cities as a reinvestment zone, a step that will allow companies to apply for tax abatements.
The designation was requested by Renewable Energy Systems representative Wes Jackson, who told commissioners the company has been acquiring leases for wind turbine generators in Comanche, Mills and Brown counties. The majority of the 150 turbines will be in Comanche County, but between 10 and 25 will be in Brown County, he said.
“The actual number of turbines in Brown County will probably be somewhere in between (those numbers),” Jackson told the commissioners Monday. “The project is looking very good.”
His presentation Monday came during a public hearing designed to give citizens an opportunity to comment on the reinvestment zone designation, County Judge Ray West said. Consideration of tax abatements for the project will come later, but perhaps as soon as Dec. 17.
“This is not a decision by the court that abates taxes,” West said of Monday’s action. “This is hearing on creating the zone, not granting the abatement itself.”
Jackson said the designation of the entire county outside incorporated areas would also benefit other firms.
“If anyone else comes in with a project, you don’t have to go through the process again,” Jackson said. “If the county does this, it certainly streamlines the process.”
“We have to have a consistent set of rules and conditions,” West said. “There is discretion as far as making abatements, but we have to have rules.”
West said areas in the county in the industrial district have previously been named as reinvestment zones.
Jackson said its tax abatement application will include a request for a waiver on job totals, because wind turbines are automated and not labor intensive such as an industry. He said the application would include a provision for jobs tied to the “industry standard,” which is about one job for every 15 turbines.
“It’s going to create a lot of jobs during the construction,” Jackson said.
The company would also pledge to use local contractors whenever the quality and price is equal, and local firms would receive preference, if all things are equal, even if the bids are 5 percent higher.
In other business, commissioners:
Delayed a decision on a request from Frank Leonard of First Investors Corp. of Fort Worth to be added to the vendors providing county employees 457 Plan services for deferred compensation. County Auditor Nina Cox said she wanted time to study the history of the company. Approved the hiring of James Cole to succeed Carl Smith as a jailer. Discussed the possibility of increasing the salary of Dr. John Dunn by $1,000 a month in response to the savings in the jail’s medical budget his methodology is realizing. Chief Deputy Bobby Duvall said the increase, which would double Dunn’s compensation, could come from the savings.
“I believe we will continue to see savings of this and better in the future,” Duvall said. “Dr. Dunn is doing an outstanding job in this area. We want to try to keep him.”
Commissioners asked Duvall for a report on where the savings would be found. West said the agenda for Monday’s meeting was not styled to allow a pay increase, even if commissioners choose to grant one. Commissioners said such an increase was discussed during budgeting last summer.
“I don’t think it’s a question of merit,” West said. “I think it’s a matter of communication with the court and Dr. Dunn. Let’s take this up again. We can still get this done before Jan. 1, and that’s the earliest we can do anything anyway.”
Opened four bids for mortar work at the Brown County Museum of History. Brown County Historical Commission chairman Ronnie Lappe said 32 potential vendors were contacted, and nine showed interest. The bids ranged from $32,000 to $92,960, and West said the court would need time to compare the proposals before awarding the job. Approved location changes for three voting precincts in the March 4 primary elections. Voters in Precinct 212 will vote at the May Community Center instead of May school, those in Precinct 113 will vote at New Hope Assembly of God instead of the Senior Citizens Center, and those in Precinct 417 will vote at Rocky Creek Baptist Church instead of the Texas 4-H Conference Center. Heard a report from Constables Bob Beadel and David Hefner on a letter all four Brown County constables received from the Child Support Division of the Texas attorney general’s office. It congratulated the constables for their continued joint efforts in assisting families affected by nonpayment of child support. In the past year, a total of $3,899,091.48 in child support payments have been collected on cases with Brown County court orders.
“We have really jelled in working together as a team,” Beadel told the commissioners. “We’re proud of what we’re doing, and we think we’re very professional in what we’re doing.”