Find out what SIP could mean for Union County

By Observer editorial November 09, 2010 11:42 am
People on both sides of the wind farm issue should make a point to attend Wednesday’s public hearing on the county’s proposed Strategic Investment Plan agreement with Horizon Wind. County officials will be there to explain what the agreement would mean for Union County, and questions will be encouraged. The hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. at the La Grande Middle School commons.

The county and Horizon announced back on Oct. 28 that they had reached agreement on the SIP. The proposal was the culmination of several lengthy negotiating sessions between the two parties.

The SIP would result in about $41 million coming to Union County over 15 years. The first year of the SIP, the county would distribute up to $1 million to Union and North Powder, the two municipalities situated closest to the proposed wind farm. The money would be distributed to local government services as well as civic organizations. Overall, the proposal would result in an estimated $3.8 million being paid by Horizon the first year, $3.4 million the second year, and declining yearly through the 15-year period. Another portion — about $1 million — would be divvied up between the county’s six school districts. The remainder would go to the county for uses that would need to be determined. A strong case could be made for the county establishing a fund for economic development and business enhancement, perhaps with an emphasis on helping local businesses expand. The fact is, it would be money our local governments don’t now have.

Some of the folks on the anti-wind farm side are already knocking the agreement, claiming that the county’s priority would be paying off the golf course debt. That’s conjecture, not fact. But it is a fair question to ask.

The hearing offers an opportunity to find out how the $41 million could benefit Union County citizens. The public should take advantage of the opportunity and attend Wednesday’s hearing.