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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Chason Affinity consultant: ‘We were almost run out of town’

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POTSDAM - A consultant representing Chason Affinity told Potsdam School Board of Education members Tuesday night that he was surprised by the reception they’re receiving in the community.

“When we first came and presented the project, we were not warmly welcomed at all,” he said, adding despite the less than friendly welcome the $20 million, 50 cottage student housing project is moving forward with or without a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement.

“We’ve been at this since May of last year,” he said. “We had lengthy PILOT negotiations. It’s dragged on for a long time.”

Mr. Fedack was at the board meeting to encourage the board to approve the PILOT agreement. The board opted not to vote on the proposal.

“We’re taking farmland, developing it and bringing new funds to the community,” he said, referring to the 103 acres of land across from Maxcy Hall, where the cottages will be built.

Mr. Fedack said there are no guarantees the project will be a success.

“We’re coming to town and taking a risk,” he said.

A risk that Mr. Fedack said they’re still willing to take.

“We feel like we’re bringing a new tax base to the community, but all we hear is people are against the PILOT,” he said.

The PILOT agreement, which has already been approved by the village boardbut rejected by the town would grant Chason Affinity tax breaks over an 11-year period with the development group receiving a 35 percent discount on their tax bill for the first six years of the agreement, followed by discounts of 30 percent, 25 percent, 20 percent, 15 percent and 10 percent over the final five years of the deal. In year 12 Chason Affinity would be expected to pay 100 percent of its tax bill.

For the school district the agreement brings in just over $1 million during that time.

“When we first made this proposal ,we were almost run out of town,” he said. “We’re befuddled by this approach.”

Board of education President Christopher C. Cowen apologized to Mr. Fedack on behalf of the school board.

“I certainly hope you know this school board is not advarsarial toward your company or any other company,” he said. “When we ask questions, we do it because we want to make an informed decision for the local community.”

Mr. Cowen was referring to a list of questions submitted to the developer by the school board that to this date have gone unanswered.

“We have asked questions that we still don’t have answers to,” he said.

Board member Wade A. Davis has been encouraging the board to vote on the agreement, but those requests have continually fallen on deaf ears, with board of education member Frederick C. Stone Jr. saying he’s not prepared to vote on the proposal until their questions are answered.

“I agree with Mr. Davis we need to make a decision,” Mr. Cowen said, “but I also agree with Mr. Stone, we are not in a position to do so until we have all the information.”

Board member James Hubbard agreed with Mr. Stone.

“I have a problem with not getting answers to questions you feel are irrelevant,” he told Mr. Fedack. “To me it doesn’t seem like a good business practice. Maybe that’s how you do things. I don’t know.”

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