VERNON >> A six-year contract between the town and the owner of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was called "very generous" by Finance Committee Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell.
"The assessment includes all the Vermont Yankee land and the dry cask storages," O'Donnell said following Tuesday's Select Board meeting when the agreement was approved. "There's 58 casks. The casks are all included."
Entergy, which is conducting the preliminary phases of decommissioning since the plant's shutdown in December 2014, will be providing a payment in lieu of municipal services property taxes. Spent fuel will be stored in the casks.
The property assessment of $78 million, O'Donnell said, is "really used for the statewide property tax more than anything."
"Because it's evident to all of us and Entergy, there's a cost incurred due to SAFSTOR," she said, referring to the decommissioning process and noting the wear and tear of roads from trucks carrying in the dry casks. "Entergy agreed to give Vernon more than what was required."
Under the SAFSTOR option, Entergy has up to 60 years to fully clean up the site. However, because the federal Department of Energy has been unable to build a centralized repository for nuclear waste, the dry casks containing spent fuel might remain on site much longer.
Without the agreement, the town would have only received about $230,000 this year. Last year, the plant supplied the town with $1.1 million in taxes in a one-year deal.
But now fixed payments to the town will begin at $750,000 for fiscal year 2016/17, gradually going down each year. For FY17/18, the payment will be $600,000 followed by $450,000 in FY18/19. The amount will then drop to $400,000 in FY19/20 until the contract runs out in 2022.
The town is set to receive $3 million altogether over the next six years.
"We are pleased to have worked collaboratively with the town of Vernon to establish a long-term property tax agreement which both enables our host community to plan future town budgets and affirms our commitment to being a good corporate citizen of Vernon," stated Entergy spokesman Martin Cohn in a statement Wednesday.
For the property valuation, George "Skip" Sansoucy was hired. The utilities specialists had performed an assessment of the plant and the hydro plant in Vernon in the past.
"The good thing is it gives the town a chance to prepare for its future so we're not just going down to $230,000," O'Donnell said. "After the six years, we will have to renegotiate."
Those discussions likely will begin in 2021.
The first round of agreements involved two one-year contracts. A 10-year contract had been the goal when parties first met, according to O'Donnell. But they had difficulties developing one.
"No one in this nation knows how to assess a closed nuclear plant," said O'Donnell. "What does it look like? It took a little bit of time going through."
She said the town was "really appreciative" of the deal.
"This is a very generous contract. For me, it goes a long way in proving that if you treat a company with respect, you can have a good working relationship," she said. "The plant and town always had a good relationship because we've respected each other."
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.