By Matthew Saari

The Town of Hartford should be the only municipal authority to grant tax breaks within the Town of Hartford.

That is the gist of Resolution No. 20108, passed by a 4-0 vote by the Hartford Town Board at their last meeting. Board member Gary Burch Sr. was absent.

“Towns may elect, by resolution, to require town board approval prior to the implementation of (Industrial Development Agency) real property tax abatement,” the resolution reads. “The town board of the Town of Hartford wishes to exercise such authority.”

Hartford Town Supervisor Dana Haff

Hartford supervisor Dana Haff explained the measure was contrived because the Washington-Warren Industrial Development Agency has several solar projects it wishes to bring to Washington County.

Dave O’Brien Hampton supervisor and chairman of the WWIDA, explained the IDA, to better incentivize businesses to set up shop in a particular location, often offers tax breaks in the form of payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) programs.

“To help (businesses) get established in the community,” O’Brien said. “Our goal is to bring economic development into Warren and Washington counties.”

Haff, however, said he doesn’t believe the IDA has Hartford’s best interests at heart, thus the measure was approved.

“I’m leery of anyone who can usurp home rule law,” said Haff.

PILOT programs are nothing new, first having gained local notoriety when solar projects expressed interest in setting up operations in Whitehall. Additional PILOT programs were offered to Ray Energy, a Troy-based propane company which constructed a bulk distribution facility in Hampton and also to Transmission Developers Inc., which is planning a massive subterranean energy line, to run from Canada to New York City, in the process running through several Washington County townships.

The argument here is that Haff believes he and the town board are fully capable of negotiating such an agreement for Hartford. Contrarily, O’Brien said that’s why the state established the IDA.

“We are a state authority created by the Legislature of the state,” said O’Brien.

Shortly after Hartford’s resolution was passed, Haff forwarded it to Washington County and the IDA. O’Brien confirmed he and the IDA were in receipt of the measure but did not comment on whether this will stop or hinder the IDA’s efforts.

“We have his resolution; it’s under review by the attorneys,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien confirmed the WWIDA has eight solar projects it is trying to bring into Washington County, adding that none of them are anticipated to set up in the Town of Hartford.

“I have not seen one looking at Hartford,” he said.

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