LETTER from BILL MARTIN
To the Editor:
As our old friend, Paul Harvey used to say, ”Now for the rest of the story”.
This is not the first “boom or bust” deal to pass through our community. A couple of us old timers remember a land buyout in the ’60s. Nothing came of it, but it was fun to watch.
In the 70’s, a gas company showed interest in this area and many of us signed leases for $1 per acre per year.
In early 2000, we signed new 10-year leases at $3 per acre. All went well until someone asked me, “Where do you spend all your gas lease money?”. My reply was, “400 acres at $3 per acre equals $1,200 per year. The 10-year lease totaled $12,000 which just covered one year’s taxes.”
So here comes a new game in town – “Solar”.
I’ll preface the subject by saying from the beginning until now, the Marcy South has been a blight in our town and of no income for the landowners. We view 11 towers from our property. Nor do I vision thousands of solar panels as a huge beautification project. However, on the flip side of this coin, if leasing land to solar companies will financially benefit farmers and land owners, time is way overdue.
In the past 70 years, I have seen dozens of farms either foreclosed on, sold at tax sales, or farms just walked away from.
The four dairy farms still operating in our town is a small testament to the good old days. At least we still have four; some towns, none.
For some of you people who plan on coming to West Laurens to visit your wealthy cousins, don’t be in a hurry. If this solar project does proceed (questionably), we were told it will take three to five years to complete.
The difference between a gas lease and a solar lease is that a gas lease includes your total acreage, and a solar lease is only for the number of acres used. For example, 250 acres may only consist of 15 useable acres. Run the numbers – 15 acres at a $1,000 versus 250 acres at a $1,000.
When asked what I’d do with my windfall, after some serious consideration, I came to the conclusion that if there was any money left after the federal, state, county, town and school administrations took their cut, I might have enough money left to pay my taxes, insurance, and maybe buy a used farm truck to replace my 22-year old Chevy S-10 that is still trying to make a few more trips up the hill.
For my friends and neighbors who have already leased farm land or intend to lease – Go For It and Good Luck! I am with you all the way because for way too long you have been over-worked, over-taxed, under-appreciated, and under paid.