County IDA denies Minden firm’s tax break plan                                                                                                            Friday, January 09, 2015

By CAROLINE MURRAY                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Recorder - News Staff

 FONDA -- Issues of job creation and economic development led the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency Thursday to reject an application from Dominion Transmission for tax breaks on a $60 million project slated to expand a compressor station in the town of Minden.

     IDA director Kenneth Rose said the number of full-time jobs the project will create is not an incentive to give the company financial assistance.

     “It really equated to $4 million of incentives per each job,” Rose said. “Obviously that is not the intent of what we are here to do.”

     The New Market Project aims to increase natural gas capacity of the company’s 200-mile pipeline to meet an increasing demand from National Grid.

     The project will add 11,133 horsepower of compression to the facility located on Brookmans Corners Road, and was expected to create 50 construction jobs plus four full-time positions.

     At an IDA meeting Thursday, Dominion Transmission representative Donald Houser presented the project to the board. 

     The entire $159 million plan involves increasing horsepower compression at the existing station in Minden, as well as the addition of two compressor stations in Madison and Chemung counties, adding or upgrading metering and regulating facilities in Minden and western Schenectady County, and other modifications in Tompkins and Herkimer counties.

      Houser said there are several benefits to expanding the pipeline. They include meeting the needs of consumers, such as large manufacturing industries looking to move into the capital region.

      For the IDA, though, the positives did not outweigh the negatives.

      Board chairman Robert Hoefs asked if the project would eventually produce more than four full-time jobs. Houser said it was not likely, and noted other facilities only require one full-time employee.

     “On a station that does not run all the time, we would rarely have someone there 24 hours a day. Where we have more pieces of equipment we have more of a need to have people on site,” he added.

      A minute after the presentation, the IDA passed a resolution to deny the application.

      Rose said the board could not see a benefit. “If job numbers were higher and there was more of a public benefit, obviously we would have taken the application,” Rose said.

     Houser said he had not seen the resolution, and did not wish to make a comment on the decision. He said the company will still move forward with the expansion project regardless of the IDA’s rejection. “Absolutely. Yes,” he said.

     A group of concerned citizens, known as the Mohawk Valley Keeper, were pleased to hear of the IDA’s decision. John Valentine, who owns Slate Creek Farm in the town of Minden, said the 75-plus community members sent a letter to the IDA asking it to consider both the economic and environmental burden the project would have on the local residents. 

     “According to Dominion’s application to the IDA, this project would generate a minuscule four jobs and no assurance has been given as to where those jobs might be, whether in Montgomery County or somewhere else,” the letter reads. “This clearly is not sufficient to support the huge $19 million tax break being sought.”

      The letter goes on to say that the overall project will “harm the land values, public health, and the image of Montgomery County.”

      Valentine said he was thrilled the IDA took the time to review the application, and saw fit to act accordingly. 

      Julie Huntsman traveled from the town of Otsego in Otsego County to learn the result of the meeting. Huntsman, who serves on the Otsego town board, believes the expansion will lead to future pollution issues that will affect all local communities, including her own.

      “The tax breaks are on the backs of the citizens,” she said, minutes before the meeting commenced. “The county is holding all the cards. Why should they give it all away to Dominion?” After the meeting, Huntsman commented on the agency making a wise decision. “I guess they looked at the information and didn’t see the benefit to Montgomery County,” she said. “I think it was a wise decision.”