Weekly Feature

2018-02-14 / Front Page

Huntley Power Plant remains focus of town address


Emminger Emminger After almost two years, the Huntley Power Plant’s future role in the Town of Tonawanda is still a relevant issue.

(See editorial on page four)

Huntley’s closure, which occurred in March 2016, resulted in a loss of roughly $6 million in property tax revenue annually to the town, Ken-Ton School District and Erie County.

At Friday’s State of the Town address, Supervisor Joseph Emminger discussed the steps the town will be taking, with topics ranging from continuous relief funding to looking for developers to repurpose the site.

“The town will be submitting their second request to New York State this year for mitigation relief funds in relation to the plant’s closure,” Emminger said.

“And, if and when it is approved, the town will be receiving up to 70 percent of the amount originally received under the former PILOT [or payment in lieu of taxes] agreement.”

In terms of dollars, the supervisor noted that this means the town will be receiving approximately $600,000 less in 2018 than it did in 2016; $800,000 less in 2019; and $1 million less in 2020; and so on until the funding sunsets in 2023.

As the town gradually lessens its dependence on this revenue stream, it plans to continue analyzing cost-saving measures.

“The town cannot and will not sit idly by waiting for a developer or for a site owner to decide when they want to act,” Emminger said, noting that the town has looked for ways to expedite the process.

In 2017, the town developed and circulated an Expression of Interest nationwide to energy companies that might be interested in repurposing the site.

“I’m happy to report the town received six submissions from as far away as California last month,” Emminger said.

The town plans on reviewing the submissions in the next few months. According to Emminger, the submissions involve repurposing the site with renewable-energy sources, which fall under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standards.

“I and others have stated on numerous occasions since the plant closed that there was not going to be one savior or one knight in shining armor that was going to ride through the town and solve our revenue concerns from the Huntley closing,” Emminger said.

He noted that it could take a series of events, such as new businesses going in along the River Road corridor or other places in the town, or revenue being generated from additional sources to help ease the financial pain.

The town is also working on a project to provide raw (non-potable) water to some of the major industries on River Road.

Industries that rely on the raw water from the Huntley intakes could lose this critical water supply soon, as the Huntley plant operator considers ending the service, according to Emminger.

To address the town’s economic future, a Tonawanda Tomorrow action plan, grounded in data, was released in June.

The initiative was shaped by more than 1,000 members of the community, including residents, business owners and various advocacy organizations.

Strategies have focused on the economy, workforce and placemaking to build on the town’s strengths and address its challenges, such as the closure of the Huntley Plant.

Additionally, the town — under the leadership of Councilman Bill Conrad — competed for and achieved the Clean Energy Community designation from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and received a $150,000 grant, Emminger said.

This involved the launch of a successful Solarize campaign. The initiative made the installation of solar panels more affordable for residents through the use of vetted installers.

Around 50 contracts were signed, and nearly 1,000 solar panels will be installed.

email: aderosa@beenews.com

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