Wind Turbine Manufacturer Suing West Branch

By George Ford, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Acciona Windpower North America is suing the City of West Branch for breaching a tax increment development agreement requiring the payment of annual tax rebates to the wind turbine manufacturer.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, claims West Branch City Administrator Matt Muckler notified Acciona CEO Joe Baker on April 16 that the city planned to cancel the Jan. 3, 2008, agreement for noncompliance.

The agreement called for Acciona to make $11 million in physical improvements to its plant and create approximately 110 new full-time jobs within a period not to exceed five years paying a median wage of a least $14.57 per hour. West Branch was to make annual tax rebate payments for eight years.

In March 2013, a slowdown in orders for new wind turbines led to the layoff of 40 employees at Acciona.

Muckler, in his April 16, 2013, letter to Acciona, contended the company failed to maintain 110 full-time jobs and continue payment of a median wage for 95 employees. Acciona was ordered to bring its workforce up to 110 employees by May 17, 2013, or the agreement would be cancelled.

On May 20, 2013, the City of West Branch passed a resolution cancelling the agreement.

Acciona contends the 102 jobs created within the five-year period specified in the agreement constitutes the "approximately 110 new full-time jobs" required by the contract. The agreement called for the minimum improvements and job creation to occur between May 2007 and May 2012, but did not appear to include a requirement to "maintain" any required level of employment.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the City of West Branch to certify the annual amount of taxes to be paid and the rebate due the company. It also requests that the court award Acciona compensatory and consequential damages, including interest and costs.
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