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Duke tax agreement coming

County commissioners reviewed the Duke Energy tax incentive agreement Thursday, speaking with school, township and chamber of commerce representatives.

Friday, August 17, 2001

County commissioners reviewed the Duke Energy tax incentive agreement Thursday, speaking with school, township and chamber of commerce representatives.

"The school boards have approved the agreement," said commissioner Jason Stephens, who helped negotiate the document. "We will be meeting jointly with the trustees Aug. 30 to sign."

The Duke Energy Hanging Rock LLC Enterprise Zone Agreement gives the company a tax break in exchange for annual "donations" to Lawrence County, Rock Hill Local School District, Hamilton Township, Lawrence County JVS, Lawrence County MR/DD and the County Home Board of Health over the next 12 years.

Rock Hill Schools will receive $3.7 million in 2002, followed by $100,000 for the next two years and $573,500 in the remaining years. The fire department gets the majority of Hamilton Township’s $42,618 annual payment – about $30,000 a year. The county’s share will be $95,410, while MRDD’s share is $75,288. The vocational school will receive $145,743 a year beginning in 2005. The board of health will receive $8,591 per year.

Among criteria set forth in the nine-page tax break agreement, the company’s first "donation" will be paid on or before Nov. 1, 2002, to allow Rock Hill Schools to retire the outstanding bonds, and the agreement is not transferable without county commissioners’ consent.

Duke Energy proposes a $550 million 1,000-megawatt natural gas-fired multi-turbined electrical facility built on 40 acres, employing 30-plus workers after construction. The construction phase is expected to employ 350 to 400 people.

The township can expect hundreds of millions of dollars in construction salaries, in purchases of local goods and in future jobs, officials say.

Despite the tax break, Duke’s payments to government entities involved will surpass taxes currently paid by the county’s highest taxpayers, commissioners said.

Duke officials say the company’s on schedule to have all approvals (state and local permits) by the end of the year, then seek internal approval.

Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Pat Clonch said the deal looks positive, adding she’s convinced the plant will be constructed.

Smaller gas fired "peaking" power plants like those proposed by Duke and Calpine Inc. (which says it will build one on the old Goldcamp Farm in Hamilton Township), as well as others across the country, are what’s keeping the economy up right now, Mrs. Clonch said.