BELLOWS FALLS -- A spokesman for TransCanada said the company is unhappy with how Rockingham arrived at its latest appraisal of the Bellows Falls hydroelectric dam, which the Board of Civil Authority voted to raise on Tuesday.
Shawn Howard told the Reformer the major energy company based in Calgary has a difference of opinion with the town and said several factors -- such as market conditions and value of natural gas prices -- were excluded from the $108 million assessment by the appraisal firm George E. Sansoucy, LLC. TransCanada bought the Mill Street facility in 2005.
Once Sansoucy produced its $108 million figure, TransCanada countered with its own appraisal of $86 million. The lower the property's assessed value is, the less the company must pay in taxes.
Lamont Barnett, Alan Ternes and Doug MacPhee -- who make up the the Board of Civil Authority's site visit committee -- toured the facility last week, disagreed with TransCanada's appraisal and came up with their own. Barnett said on Thursday the BCA accepted the committee's recommendation and bumped up its appraisal to $117.3 million, which creates an even larger disparity between the two sides.
The board actually decided to increase the overall property value to $129 million and split the allocation. According to the site visit committee's report, Rockingham would get 91 percent of the evaluation while Walpole, N.H., which borders the Vermont town, would be
"(TransCanada is) probably not going to like it," Barnett said. "But there are avenues they can take to challenge it."
Howard said the North American energy giant is disappointed with the increase in appraisal.
"You have to remember that we based (our appraisal) on industry experience, on what has happened in the industry," he said. "There's a lot of science and complicated equations that go into this."
He said his company is willing to work with the town to bring in an independent assessor but said it would rather sit down with town officials to resolve the situation.
"We try very hard to be a good neighbor," Howard said. "We don't like to be in these kinds of situations."
Ternes, chairman of the site visit committee, said TransCanada's disappointment doesn't surprise him, but the corporation's low figure bothered board members as well. He said the next move is up to the company.
"(The BCA's) job is done," he said on Thursday. "The ball is in their court."
He said he understands why TransCanada is unhappy but said the site visit committee has worked very hard to be fair.
TransCanada has the option of filing a lawsuit requesting a judicial decision on the assessment or appealing through the Vermont Department of Taxes.
The corporation in June filed a grievance against the initial appraisal. This is the second time TransCanada has appealed an appraisal by a state-hired appraiser.
Representatives from TransCanada sat down with Bellows Falls Listers Camilla Roberts, David Gould and Paul Noble as well as Finance Director Chip Stearns and Bellows Falls Village Trustee Andrew Smith shortly after the after the grievance was filed.
Roberts called that meeting the first step in a long process.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.