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Town of Eddington v. Maine

Supreme Court of Maine

December 7, 2017

TOWN OF EDDINGTON et al.
v.
EMERA MAINE

          Argued: November 15, 2017

          Charles E. Gilbert, III, Esq. (orally), and Erik M.P. Black, Esq., Gilbert & Greif, P.A., Bangor, for appellants Town of Eddington and Town of Bradley

          David P. Silk, Esq. (orally), and Rebecca Gray Klotzle, Esq., Curtis Thaxter LLC, Portland, for appellee Emera Maine

          Breana N. Gersen, Esq., Maine Municipal Association, Augusta, for amicus curiae Maine Municipal Association

          Ben Gilman, Esq., Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Augusta, for amicus curiae Maine State Chamber of Commerce

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] The Town of Eddington and the Town of Bradley appeal from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Murphy, J.) affirming the decision of the State Board of Property Tax Review granting Emera Maines request for a property tax abatement for the 2012 tax year pursuant to 36 M.R.S. § 841(1) (2016). The Towns challenge the Boards finding that Emeras error in estimating a value for and reporting ownership of a transmission line that Emera did not own resulted in an "illegality, error or irregularity in assessment, " rather than an "error in the valuation of property."[1] See 36 M.R.S. § 841(1). Because the evidence supports the Boards findings, we affirm the judgment.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] The following facts are taken from the stipulations presented by the parties or found by the Board. Emera Maine is in the business of transporting and distributing electric power over transmission lines. There are two 345 kV[2] transmission lines located in the Towns of Eddington and Bradley: Line 390 and Line 396. Emera owns Line 390. Maine Electric Power Company (MEPCO) owns Line 396.

         [¶3] In the years at issue, 2011 to 2013, Emera was responsible for submitting to municipalities lists that itemized the mileage and value of the 345 kV transmission lines owned by Emera in each Town. The purpose of these lists was to provide each Town with the description and value of the property owned by Emera so that the Towns could use the reported property value to assess property taxes.

          [¶4] In 2012, an accountant at Emera was responsible for preparing the lists to submit to the Towns. To get an accurate and up-to-date account of the property owned by Emera in each Town, the accountant contacted Emeras IT department to obtain an inventory report of Emeras 345 kV transmission lines. The report provided to the accountant indicated that in Eddington Emera owned 4.56 miles of Line 390 and 5.311 miles of Line 396, for a total of 9.871 miles of 345 kV transmission line, and in Bradley Emera owned 11.7 miles of Line 390 and 6.827 miles of Line 396, for a total of 18.527 miles of 345 kV transmission line.

         [¶5] Believing that Emera owned all of the 345 kV line mentioned in the report, the accountant added the mileage of Lines 390 and 396 together for a total length of 18.527 miles of 345 kV transmission line, with a value of $23, 453, 829.53, in Bradley and 9.871 miles of 345 kV transmission line, with a value of $12, 495, 965.42, in Eddington.[3]

         [¶6] After Emeras 2012 lists were submitted to the Towns, the assessor for each Town called Emeras accountant to inquire about the significant increase in valuation from prior years and to confirm that the valuation was correct. The ...


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