The Town of Tusten's muncipal solar field is located at the Route 97 highway shed and supplies 100% of the muncipality's electricity.

We are all connected

We’re all connected.

That’s the beauty in rural living. Everyone is connected to someone else. And while that’s probably a truism for existence itself—we are all connected—it’s a reality that we realize daily in this rural landscape.

I think that’s good news as we enter a time when our world becomes more and more fragmented and divided across nationalistic lines. These lines cause contentious fractions and an ego- or individualized view of the world.

This ego view, according to MIT Researcher Otto Scharmer, is causing great disconnection and trauma in our world. In his work, entitled U-Lab, he posits that as a society we need to move from that ego-centric perspective (It’s all about me and my needs) to an eco-centric perspective. (How do we make a decision based on what is best for the whole?)

I thought about this shift at the recessed meeting of the Town of Tusten Town Board meeting yesterday morning.

The town was considering whether to accept the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) offered by the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) in regard to a proposed solar project in Tusten. 

The town has its own solar PILOT program and the board was trying to reconcile the difference between their PILOT program and that of the IDA.  At issue was the length of time that the PILOT would be effect (15 years for the town, 20 years for the IDA), the waiving of what could be potentially a mortgage fee through the IDA PILOT and, most specifically, the $20,000 yearly cap on the IDA PILOT. (This includes a percentage for the school and the county.)

Through the town’s own PILOT, the yearly payment would be higher.

There would be administrative costs, the assessor offered, so it would be difficult to actually know what the financial difference would turn out to be. (The board estimated that the yearly payment to the town would be $8600 through their own PILOT (minus unknown expenses), compared to an estimated $4000 a year through the IDA PILOT.

In the end, the Board decided to go back to the IDA and ask for a 15-year PILOT and the town’s percentage of the potential mortgage fee, which traditionally gets waived through any IDA project.

It will be interesting to see what happens next, as the IDA has a policy that all agreements must be the same throughout the county. I imagine that they will come back and say just that: what’s good for one is good for all.

One can easily understand that the town board has a fiduciary responsibility. They are charged with taking care of the town. Interestingly enough, in this particular situation, there are other factors that widen the exploration beyond what is, on the surface, a financial decision, of simply what is best for the town.

There are relationships to other entities.

On first blush, the project is an asset for residents. If this project were to go through, up to 400 residents, if they signed on, would have a guaranteed saving on electricity rates as the developer (Delaware River Solar) guarantees a 10% lower rate than NYSEG. (The board made it clear that they are all in favor of solar, and if an agreement couldn’t be reached with the current developer, another developer could be found.)

In this, there seems to be a certain risk factor. How would the town vet another developer coming in without the help of the IDA?

Additionally, what allegiance does the town have in terms of its relationship to the county and to the county’s organizational partners, in this case, the IDA?

Is there any advantage of having the same developer as other municipalities? At present, Delaware River Solar has built projects in the Town of Delaware, Town of Liberty, and has a large facility in development at Sackett Lake in the Town of Thompson.

Hopefully, I have been clear that I am not challenging the board’s decision, I am raising the concept that the important decisions that face our town, our state, our nation, and our globe are not ones that can be made in isolated financial terms. And most importantly, we need to develop a new rubric in which these decisions are made.

We are all connected and the perspective of the whole that must be factored in, if there is to be a whole going forward

In our town, we are a government of our peers. For that I am grateful.


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