BELLOWS FALLS -- In the latest chapter of an on-going debate over assessed property value, three members of the Rockingham Civil Authority Board toured the Bellows Falls hydroelectric dam with representatives from TransCanada on Wednesday.
Lamont Barnett, Alan Ternes and Doug MacPhee strolled around the dam, which is owned by TransCanada and which is currently the focus of a disagreement between the Calgary-based energy company and an appraiser hired by the state.
Vermont's appraiser -- George Sansoucy, P.E., LLC -- valued the Mill Street facility at just more than $108 million in 2010. But TransCanada believes the true figure is lower -- closer to $86 million -- and has made a claim stating so. The lower the facility's appraisal, the less the corporation pays in taxes.
Barnett said Wednesday's tour and property inspection was part of the tax appeals process.
"It's an incredible facility. It's got three turbines that it uses for power," he said in a telephone interview. "It's amazing that it's in our community."
A TransCanada representative met in June with two Bellows Falls listers, David Gould and Paul Noble, as well as Finance Director Chip Stearns and Bellows Falls Village Trustee Andrew Smith. Stearns later said the representative spoke about the factors that went into the appraisal and why his company disagrees with it.
According to an e-mail from Shawn Howard, TransCanada's senior external communications
Ternes, MacPhee and Barnett convened privately for about 90 minutes after the tour, which was conducted by Matthew Cole, community relations for the company's U.S. Northeast Region, and another TransCanada employee. The board members discussed the recommendation they will bring to the civil authority board, which has roughly 20 days left to make a final decision. Though he could mention what they spoke about, Barnett said the recommendation will likely be made by Tuesday.
Cole said the tour was a simple one and went well.
"We just went through the facility and looked at all the equipment and the bricks and mortar," he said on Thursday. "They seemed very satisfied."
Local officials are afraid Rockingham will lose more than $50,000 if TransCanada's appeal is approved and the property assessment drops by $22 million.
This is the second time TransCanada has appealed an appraisal by the state.
The facility in Bellows Falls was one the corporation acquired from USGen New England, Inc. in 2005. According to TransCanada's website, an existing agreement between Rockingham and USGen New England provided the town with the option to purchase the facility for $72 million.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.