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Waddington official worries River Agency’s 20 megawatts will not help town businesses

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WADDINGTON – Town council members say they worry that the town will not see a benefit from 20 megawatts of low-cost power from the New York Power Authority intended to spur economic development.

A pending contract between NYPA and the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency, which includes the towns of Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena and St. Lawrence County, will grant the River Agency the power to help new and expanding businesses.

Town Supervisor Mark Scott said under current plans the power most likely will not benefit Waddington, which has a mostly retail-based business community.

“Right now, the release of power allocations only has an impact on manufacturing businesses, with retailers excluded from the contract,” Mr. Scott said. “Our town is more retail-based than manufacturing-based, and we think retail is where our potential for economic development lies.”

A previous contract allowing the release of the power from NYPA allowed for any power not allocated to businesses to be sold on the open market. NYPA would then allow the River Agency to use the proceeds as it saw fit. That provision was deemed illegal by former Gov. David A. Paterson, who rejected the contract at the end of 2010.

The sale of unused power is not expected to be included in the power contract proposal currently under consideration. River Agency officials have said they could seek that ability through state legislation.

Mr. Scott said that most of the town’s retail businesses are struggling. Additional money generated from unused power would further help Waddington businesses grow, he said.

Mr. Scott said he hopes the River Agency board will approach state lawmakers before the legislative session ends about the possibility of legislation allowing unused power to be sold and its proceeds used for economic development.

“If the number of businesses eligible for monetary allocation was more numerous and more flexible, then the money would help businesses through power allocation more directly,” said Mr. Scott.

NYPA will hold a public hearing from 3 to 7 p.m. May 10 at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center, Massena, before voting on the proposed contract.

After reviewing the comments, NYPA trustees will decide if any changes need to be made to the contract. The final draft will then be sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for approval.

Once the contract is approved by all parties, businesses can apply to the River Agency for a power allocation.

Thus far, Mr. Scott said, Waddington is the only town to express concern for how the power will be allocated.

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