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Council takes a tour of Cob site


Published August 29, 2004

City councilors thinking through tax break for proposed power plant


BONANZA - Standing beneath humming high-tension power lines, four members of the Klamath Falls City Council looked at the proposed spot for the Cob Energy Facility Friday afternoon.

Shifting their attention between maps, schematics and a field off of West Langell Valley Road that could be the home to a 1,150-megawatt power plant, the councilors tried to picture what the proposed plant would look like.

"I think it is important that we come and be on the ground," said Trish Seiler, city councilor.

She was joined by Councilors Cheri Howard, Bill Adams and Betty Dickson, and by Jeff Ball, city manager.

The councilors could play a role in deciding whether the controversial natural gas-fueled plant is built by Peoples Energy Corp. of Chicago. They are considering whether the Klamath Falls enterprise zone should be expanded to the east of Klamath Falls, reaching through Dairy and Bonanza and out to the plant site.

The issue is also being considered by the Klamath County Board of Commissioners. The enterprise zone, established in 1986, is under the jurisdiction of both city and the county, with both governing bodies getting a say on any changes to the boundaries.

The existing boundary is confined to portions of the Klamath Falls urban growth boundary.

With an enterprise zone classification comes tax incentives for businesses to build. The enterprise zone change the city and county are considering would free People's Energy from paying property taxes for 15 years on the land.

In exchange, the company would give Klamath County money each year. At a City Council meeting on Aug. 16, a Peoples Energy official said the company would give $1.5 million per year in exchange for the tax break.

The official, Rob Trotta, has since changed positions with the company and is no longer working on the project.

Paul Turner, the new project spokesman, has said the company is considering offering more to offset an estimated $71 million property tax revenues the county would forgo with the expansion of the enterprise zone.

At the Aug. 16 meeting, the three councilors in attendance - Hart, Seiler and Adams - said they needed to learn more about the Cob plant and the possibilities of stretching the enterprise zone. At the meeting they heard from about 20 opponents of the plant and 10 supporters.

Friday's field trip helped provide a vision of what the plant would look like, but the councilors said they plan to do a lot more research into the issue.

"This is just part of the information," Howard said.

The enterprise zone issue will be discussed again at the Sept. 20 City Council meeting.

Peoples Energy is still going through the process of seeking state permission to build the plant, with the the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council expected to grant or deny a site license to Cob by November.

Turner has said the company will not seek an the enterprise zone tax break for its project until the state decides whether the power plant can be built.





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