METAMORA - The first step toward granting tax breaks to a company that plans to build a peak power plant nearby was approved last night by village council.
Council voted 6-0 to approve the first reading of a tax abatement for Aquila, Inc., before a room full of about 80 area residents, many of them opposed to the plant.
Two more readings are necessary before the issue is decided. The abatement on taxes would be for 10 years, with Aquila promising to pay $562,006 to the village.
The Evergreen School District previously approved a 100 percent tax abatement that would allow Aquila a 10-year reprieve from taxes on $133 million in personal and real property if it builds on the proposed site off Amboy Township Road 2.
In return, the school would receive yearly “donations” of more than $310,000 from the company or about $3.2 million over the decade.
An attempt to vote on the first reading had been stalled last week when council tabled it. Members said they needed more information.
After the reading, Mark Barber, of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, explained that agency's approval of a “permit to pollute” which will be granted to Aquila with requirements to stay within allowable emission standards.
Mr. Barber, of the EPA's division of air pollution control, said Ohio has installed 20 peak power stations in recent years and all must operate within emission limits.
A peak station can only generate electric power for certain hours, during “peak” periods of electrical use.
There has been summer-long organized opposition to the building of the Aquila plant and many protesters were at the meeting.
Opposition to the Aquila power plant has grown since early in the year. A group calling itself Challenging Aquila Regarding Electricity has been steadfast in opposing the proposed building and has conducted an active campaign of letter writing and petition circulation.
The group recently sent a detailed newsletter to residents, outlining reasons the power plant should not be allowed.
About 250 “Say No to Aquila!” signs have sprouted in front yards.
Protesters object to the peak power plant because of what they consider to be potential air pollution, noise, water-supply problems, and disruption of the rural environment.
The group has protested the tax abatement, arguing that the power company makes large profits and its taxes would be worth more to local governments than “donations” Aquila would promise.
Plans for the Aquila plant meet all requirements the EPA has, Mr. Barber said. “We give them a permit to pollute and my job is to see that emissions do not harmfully impact a community,” Mr. Barber said.
One resident asked why council members were not asking questions, “since you represent us?”
“We've been doing research on this for a long time, asking a lot of questions before this,” said council member Cheryl Geer.
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