Lowndes County supervisors approved exactly three fee-in-lieu agreements for projects representing more than $500 million in capital investment during Monday’s regular board meeting.
The agreements, one with Steel Dynamics (SDI) and the other two with Florida-based solar energy producer Origis under the names MS Solar 5 and MS Solar 6, made official earlier “resolutions of intent” (ROI) when the projects were first announced.
In a fee-in-lieu agreement, companies are exempt from property taxes for up to 10 years in exchange for a fee paid to the city, county and school district. State law dictates the fee cannot be less than one-third of what a company would ordinarily pay in taxes.
The SDI fee-in-lieu covers Phase 5 expansion, a $240-million investment announced in 2018 to add a third galvanized steel production line at the facility.
Golden Triangle Regional Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins noted that the county’s investment in the phase was limited.
“Your participation in that agreement was basically $150,000 to extend the rail line,” Higgins told supervisors.
The two other fee-in-lieus, representing a combined $300 million in capital investment, had no cost to the county.
In February 2020, Origis announced it has been awarded a contract with Tennessee Valley Authority for a 200-megawatt facility located near the Infinity Megasite in western Lowndes County. In March, Origis, whose original plans had called for a 350-megawatt facility, was awarded a second TVA contract, this time for a 150-megawatt facility, which is now called MS Solar 6.
Production from MS Solar 5 is scheduled to begin in October 2022, with MS Solar 6 starting production as early as October 2023.
“These are separate fees-in-lieus because there is a one-year lag between when they’ll start producing energy,” Higgins said.
Higgins said each of the fee-in-lieus will produce more than $1 million in tax revenues between the county and its school district.
“It’s a big deal,” board president Trip Hairston said. “Just from these two solar facilities, it’s a $300 million investment, and the county isn’t spending anything. All we had to do was sign on the dotted line. That doesn’t happen every day.”