Power plant tax agreement headed for town meeting

Power plant tax agreement headed for town meeting

BLACKSTONE – Residents will consider a new 10-year tax treaty for the Elm Street power plant at a special town meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1, after town officials reached an agreement with ANP Blackstone Energy Company last month.

The agreement calls for the company to pay $2.7 million per year over 10 years on the Elm Street property, a $600,000 increase over the previous agreement of $2.1 million. The new agreement includes an option to renew after 10 years.

The Board of Selectmen voted to approve the agreement and place it on the town meeting warrant during a meeting last Tuesday, Aug. 27. Town Administrator Daniel Keyes described it as a “real plus” for the town, saying it provides clear direction on how the board will oversee any gifts from the power plant to the town.

“It’s a real positive force for us over the next 10 years, and it puts us in a clear and, should I say, excellent position regarding the finances for the town moving forward regarding some of the things that we are going to have to do,” he said.

Like the previous agreement, the new agreement stipulates funds from the power plant will be split in the town’s accounts, with 90 percent of the funds dedicated for capital improvements and 10 percent going to the general fund. Capital funds from the previous agreement, negotiated in the late 1990s and set to expire in 2020, funded several town improvement projects over the past two decades, most notably the new Blackstone Public Library on Main Street.

Though the beneficiary of the new agreement's funds has not yet been officially determined, Board of Selectmen Chairman Daniel Keefe said a committee has already begun meeting to discuss the construction and funding of a new water treatment system to comply with standards set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The project, which has an estimated price tag of $5 million, will likely take advantage of some of the funds from the new agreement.

“Seeing that the power plant is the biggest customer of the Water Department, it only seems right that we should use some of it for that,” said Keefe.

Talks on the proposed agreement have stalled for several years due to changes in the plant’s ownership. Originally opened as American National Power in 2001, the plant later changed hands to Dynegy Inc. and is now owned by Luminant, a subsidiary of Texas-based Vistra Energy. The company also owns a plant on Maple Street in Bellingham, Mass, under the name ANP Bellingham Energy Company.

A negotiating team that included Keyes, Keefe, town attorney Patrick Costello and Selectman Robert Dubois began meeting with company representatives in April to negotiate the new agreement. During last week’s meeting, Dubois pointed to the many town improvements funded by the previous agreement and warned fellow officials to be prepared to answer residents’ questions when the agreement is put to a vote next month.

“I think it’s the most important thing in town,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of being next to 495 like Bellingham does, and we don’t have the luxury of being next to 146 like Uxbridge does.”

The special town meeting will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. at the Blackstone-Millville Regional High School auditorium. The full agreement is available to view on the town website.