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NYPA task force may change law firms

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WADDINGTON - Town, village and county leaders may choose a different law firm than originally planned as they review the New York Power Authority’s 2003 relicensing agreement at its 10th anniversary.

In June, The Local Government Task Force voted unanimously to appoint the Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke law firm of Washington, D.C., at a rate of $240 per hour, for a maximum of $3,500. The task force was to pay for the firm through approximately $30,000 left over from the 2003 agreement held in the St. Lawrence County treasurer’s office.

Task force members have been discussing the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 2003 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreement, which enables NYPA to run the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project for 50 years. The agreement provided benefits to the host communities surrounding the power project.

Within the agreement was a provision: every decade, NYPA and the host communities could review and “discuss issues not anticipated” in 2003. Officials said the law firm would review whether NYPA had been fully compliant with the agreement terms and potentially negotiate additional benefits.

But a contract was never inked with the Duncan firm, Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said. The task force has yet to receive legal assistance on the 10-year review.

Soon after agreeing to utilize Duncan, the firm informed the task force of a potential conflict of interest. The Duncan firm already provides legal assistance to the River Valley Redevelopment Agency and wanted to make sure taking on the task force would not be a problem, Mr. Gray said.

The Duncan firm had previously worked for the Local Government Task Force during the relicensing negotiations, Mr. Gray said.

“Personally, I was a bit offended,” Mr. Gray said. “Duncan Weinberg worked for the task force long before they worked for the RVRDA.”

Mr. Gray said the delay in recruiting a firm has not hurt the task force’s review effort. The group met with the Wladis Law Firm in an approximately 40-minute long executive session Wednesday night for the purpose of discussing potential litigation. Mr. Gray said whether the task force would file a lawsuit next year would “depend on what the power authority’s attitude is.”

The task force may meet later this month to retain the Wladis firm instead of Duncan Weineberg. Mr. Gray said he didn’t believe Wladis would be more expensive per hour than Duncan Weinberg.

“They did some background work,” Waddington Supervisor Mark Scott said of Wladis. “I was impressed with their firm.”

Officials discussed some of the additional benefits they would like to broach during the review at Wednesday’s meeting. Mr. Gray would like to see more in-kind services provided by NYPA so towns and villages could defray engineering costs associated with projects.

Madrid-Waddington School Superintendent Lynn Roy said she hoped NYPA could provide students with more educational opportunities and internships. Mayor James F. Hidy said he would like more money provided for the communities’ benefit. The funding provided in the north country is disproportionately allocated to Habitat Improvement Projects, he said.

“The spotted snail has been higher on the food chain than we are,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Scott and Louisville Supervisor Larry R. Legault said they hoped next year’s review could yield more results for Massena, Louisville and Waddington’s riverfront development. Each town received land from NYPA in the 2003 agreement.

“We have all this land and no resources to develop it,” Mr. Scott said. “It was nice to get the land back. Now, what do you want to do with it?”

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