Niagara Gazette

October 14, 2013

Lewiston town board wants power authority to help fund police and fire services

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston officials are hoping New York State politicians come to their senses and change the rules concerning one of the largest properties off the tax rolls in the border town.

Councilman Ernest Palmer, with the support of the town board’s four remaining members, presented a resolution last week asking the state government to force the New York Power Authority to help fund the town’s fire and police services responding to the Niagara Power Project’s 2,400 acres of land in the town.

“The town board’s been working very hard looking for new ways to cut expenses or find new revenue,” Palmer said. “This resolution attempts to make a wrong a right. It’s my belief we’re not provided enough compensation for the services our crews provide.”

The request would, if adopted by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allow the state agency to willfully contribute money to first responder groups that support the safety and security of the Robert Moses Power Plant.

Financing fire and police response has long been this board’s gripe with the state, stemming from a 2007 ruling by Cuomo, then the attorney general, barring the agency from disbursing funds to these community entities.

Since then, departments have been called on to provide support numerous times without any financial support in return, including an August 2012 turbine fire at the Robert Moses Power Plant just weeks after the power authority contributed $13 million to the City of Niagara Falls, which was struggling through its casino cash issues.

Palmer called upon both Democrat leaders of the state assembly and Republicans in the senate to approve the measure, or alternatively, open up the authority’s land within the town’s borders, allowing the town to place the power plant on the tax rolls to collect special district taxes to support the efforts on site.

The town alleges about $2 million in fire department revenues has been lost because special district taxes cannot be collected from state agencies.

In other town news, planned relief for residents of Lewiston’s Riverwalk development is set to take its next step.

Town Supervisor Steve Reiter said he met with town engineer Ryan Smith about the project’s plans to install a rain garden in the vicinity of a standing water pond area residents are eager to alleviate.

Reiter said survey work was set to begin Tuesday, while the town’s highway department would also get involved in the project.

About 300 feet of eight-inch pipe is on site and ready to be installed, Reiter added.

Highway Superintendent Doug Janese, meanwhile, updated the board on the progress of its road repaving efforts. After asking the town to bond about $2 million this past summer to cover the costs of repaving roads and purchasing two replacement plow trucks, he said the work is nearly complete.

About 13.5 miles of road was resurfaced as part of the program. But he said the town needs to consider the next step in its effort to provide proper roadway. He said the town needs to find about the same amount of money next year, minus the truck purchase, just to finally makeup for lost time.

“We’ll need the equivalent amount next year just to get caught up,” Janese said. “I kept my request reasonable (for the 2014 budget).”

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.