Atchison County was well represented at the Missouri Public Service Commission’s public hearing at the Velma Houts Building Monday, January 14, 2019.

Atchison County Clerk Susette Taylor and Fairfax R-3 School Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Burright were among those testifying at the Missouri Public Service Commission’s public hearing Monday, January 14, 2019.

The Missouri Public Service Commission held a local public hearing in Rock Port on January 14, 2019, in a case filed by Ameren Missouri which seeks Commission authority and a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to construct, own and operate an approximate 157 megawatt wind generation facility in Atchison County.

There was standing room only at the Velma Houts Building for the Missouri Public Service Commission hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to listen to concerns about Ameren Missouri purchasing the Brickyard Hill Wind Farm upon completion from EDF-RE US Development, LLC. Brickyard Hill Wind Farm is located on Route J in Atchison County. The hearing was held in two parts. First was an informal question and answer with representatives from Ameren, EDF and the public service commission staff.

During this portion of the meeting, members of the audience were able to raise their hands and a microphone was taken to them in order to ask their questions. Many of the questions were about the same topic: the tax dollars and why they would not stay local.

Ameren Missouri is a public utility which serves 1.26 million electric customers in Missouri. As a result of being a public utility, they are assessed at the state level and not the local level. What does that mean for Atchison County? Based on the current 30-year-old state statute, the tax dollars collected from public utilities are distributed to those counties who have, in this case, power lines running through them. Currently, Atchison County has zero miles of Ameren line. When the project is completed, Atchison County would have approximately eight miles of Ameren line. That means Atchison County would go from collecting over $1 million annually to less than $20,000.

In order to get those taxes to stay in Atchison County, Representative Allen Andrews has recently introduced HB 220. This bill would give local authorities the ability to charge and collect taxes based on the real or tangible personal property. The concern is if HB 220 does not pass the remaining wind farms in Atchison County are subject to being bought out. Therefore, the tax dollars would not stay local.

Following the public question and answer portion, Morris Woodruff, Chief Presiding Officer for the Missouri Public Service Commission, opened the hearing along with the Chairman of the Commission, Ryan Silvey. Chief Woodruff called and swore in the first to testify, Atchison County Clerk Susette Taylor. Clerk Taylor gave a brief history of the wind farms in Atchison County and attested to the positive impact the wind farms have had to our local taxing entities. Susette then expressed the county commission’s concern if the Brickyard Hill Wind Farm is sold to Ameren Missouri and asked that the public service commission deny Ameren’s request unless a condition of local taxation is met. Susette was followed by Monica Bailey, director for Atchison County Development Corporation; Lori Jones, County Assessor; Ethan Sickels, Rock Port R-II Superintendent; Dr. Jeremy Burright, Fairfax R-3 Superintendent; Karma Coleman, Tarkio R-I Superintendent; Clay Vogler; Janet Griffin; Kyle White, DeKalb County Commissioner; Rex Wallace, Nodaway County Assessor; Curtis Livengood, Atchison County Presiding Commissioner; and Lesa McCartney. Those who spoke gave testimony on what the impact of the loss of the taxes would mean to the taxing entities in the county and asked the Public Service Commission to deny Ameren’s request unless a solution to the taxing is met.

The next step is a vote by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

A full transcript will be available on the Missouri Public Commission website.