Proposed ERA

The red overlay portion of the map depicts property mainly southeast of Francisco proposed for establishment as an economic revitalization area, as part of a proposed solar farm project.

PRINCETON — Gibson County Council and Gibson County Commissioners meet jointly in a special public meeting at 4 p.m. Sept. 22 in the Gibson Circuit Courtroom to learn more about a proposed solar farm project near Francisco.

The 200 megawatt solar project proposed for hundreds of acres in eastern Gibson County would generate enough power for roughly 40,000 homes, tying in to a Vectren substation near Francisco, according to developers.

Council members voted to meet with commissioners to further discuss the proposed Elliott Solar project proposed by Tenaska in partnership with Capital Dynamics.

Gibson County Economic Development Corporation President/CEO Paul Waters and Gibson County Attorney James McDonald also asked the council to approve a resolution to designate the area of the project southeast of Francisco in Center and Barton Townships as an economic revitalization area.

Designation of an ERA will allow the developer to request tax abatement if, following a future public hearing, the council decides to adopt a confirming resolution.

Tenaska is the developer of the proposed project, and Capital Dynamics would own and operate the solar farm over the anticipated 35-year life of the project, according to data presented to Gibson County Council members Tuesday morning.

The project, according to a statement of benefits presented to the council, would be a $170 million capital investment, constructed over the course of about 14 months (by December of 2023 or sooner). Construction of the project is estimated to create about 288 jobs. Operation of the solar farm would create about 11 jobs.

Gibson County Councilman Bill McConnell said he’s concerned about granting tax abatements in an uncertain economy.

Waters noted that Gibson County Commissioners authorized employing Baker Tilly as financial consultants and Ice Miller and McDonald Law Office as legal council to explore the impact of the project. He said Tenaska is paying up to $40,000 to Baker Tilly for the financial impact study.

McDonald said the joint special session planned Sept. 22 is an informational meeting, with no vote anticipated. It is open to the public.

Councilman Dan Beard asked about the companies’ history of working with Indiana counties. Waters said Tenaska is working with Pike and Knox counties. More than 30 counties in Indiana have solar projects in development.

In other business at Tuesday’s monthly session:

• The council authorized the Gibson County Health Department to proceed with using a $100,000 CARES act grant for COVID-19-related information technology expenses, and another $100,000 CARES act grant for the county to assume operation (when grant funds arrived) of a COVID-19 testing site at the Gibson County Fairgrounds from October 1 through June, 2021.

• The council will accept suggestions for a candidate to be appointed to a four-year term on the Gibson County Board of Zoning Appeals. The candidate appointed by the council must be a resident of the unincorporated areas of Gibson County, who is not an elected official and who does not serve on the Gibson County Area Plan Commission. Interested candidates can directly contact county council members, who hope to make an appointment at their October meeting.

• Councilman Craig Pflug asked about whether the county can be reimbursed by Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service for a portion of the funds it pays the university, since the county agriculture educator position hasn’t been filled since July. “We sent the contract money to Purdue to furnish three positions in the office,” he said. “Can we get a refund if we’re not being fully staffed? How do we avoid that for 2021?” he asked. “If we’re only going to have two of the three, then should we only send two-thirds of the money?”

• McDonald told the council that the architect for the county jail project should have a report ready for the council’s review in the a couple of weeks, suggesting a special session to review the material. Councilman Jeremy Overton asked whether commissioners have hired a construction manager for the project. “I feel like they need to have somebody now, or sooner,” he said. “It’s hard to move on to the next step without one.”

• The council agreed to advertise for de-appropriations from two court funds and appropriations for the public defender budget for pauper counsel. Public Defender Lisa Moody said the appropriations will move money budgeted in the courts for pauper attorneys prior to the establishment of the public defender office, into the new public defender office budget to pay attorneys.

Email Andrea Howe at andrea@pdclarion.com.

— Email Andrea Howe at andrea@pdclarion.com

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