By Connor Lynch
WOLFE ISLAND — Ontario municipalities hosting wind turbines might be getting “a kick in the teeth” with raised policing fees, says Frontenac Islands Township mayor Denis Doyle.
Frontenac Islands includes Wolfe Island and is being charged $300 a turbine for policing service by the Leeds County OPP. With 86 turbines on the island, the township will pay an extra $25,800 per year.
Other communities could face the same new fees, Doyle says. “Some communities haven’t figured it out yet.”
The new fees relate to the OPP’s new pay-by-property billing model rolled out last year. The province classifies wind turbines as industrial properties and the townships pay a policing fee per wind turbine that starts at $200.
While Doyle says that municipalities charge a tax per turbine of $450, typically paid by the company leasing the property, the municipalities will now lose most of it, he says. He adds that municipalities are restricted in applying taxes to turbines at a small percentage of their power output and not as a percentage of their value, which he estimates at $5 million each.
“The problem is that the province, in order to promote green energy and keep it from being too expensive, doesn’t let us bill wind turbines like we do other commercial properties,” Doyle says.
Evonne Delegarde, mayor of South Dundas, which is due to receive 24 to 36 wind turbines on top of the 10 they already have, says she had no idea the OPP would be billing for the turbines.
“I don’t understand the connect on that,” she says. Her community is on the record as not supporting the wind turbine projects, which she says is a very divided issue in her community.
“It’s kind of shocking, to tell you the truth,” says North Stormont mayor Dennis Fife. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.” North Stormont was opposed to the wind turbine project. They currently have a project pending provincial approval of 29 to 50 turbines. “I assumed they were only charging residences,” he says.
Kawartha Lakes mayor Andy Letham hadn’t heard anything about the new costs for the turbines either. He says the fees aren’t the end of the world (Kawartha Lakes is only slated to receive 15 turbines) but they fit into the greater problem of rising police costs.
Residential groups have appealed the turbines, as has the city, with no success.
What frustrates Doyle is that the turbines “don’t require any policing. They’re a kilometre back on a farmer’s property behind a locked gate. What kind of vandalism are you going to do?”
That might be the case on Wolfe Island, where a vandal’s motives are hampered by waiting for the early morning ferry to make a getaway, but not in Western Ontario. In Huron County, vandals damaged turbines or stole copper wire 21 times last year, costing thousands of dollars in interrupted service and repair fees.
Addington Highlands reeve Henry Hogg, however, says that even with extra OPP costs, the turbines are still a bonus for his community. Addington Highlands supported the projects, and is due to receive an annual several hundred thousand dollar community benefit grant from the companies for its support.
Hogg had not been made aware of the increased OPP fees in advance either, but mentioned that the province “gets its money somehow. They bill for cellphone towers that don’t require any policing either.”