Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 8, 2013

Covanta vote expected on Thursday

Niagara Gazette —

A proposed tax break agreement for a local waste-to-energy company will likely come to a vote during today's meeting of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency's board of directors.

While the proposed 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal for Covanta Energy, Inc. in Niagara Falls has been questioned by some critics, NCIDA Chairman Henry Sloma said Tuesday he's prepared to vote on the company's application for assistance and believes his board colleagues are ready to do the same. 

Sloma said his position hasn't changed and that he believes the company needs the tax abatement package to stay competitive.

"This is what keeps them successful and keeps them in the state," Sloma said.

Covanta officials requested the tax break agreement to support plans for a $30 million expansion at its plant off 56th Street. The expansion would allow Covanta to import municipal waste by the ton from New York City by rail. 

In its project overview, the NCIDA claims the proposed plant improvements will create $38 million in "community benefits" for an estimated tax abatement of $8 million over the course of the agreement.

Amy Hope Witryol, a retired bank executive and former state senatorial candidate who spoke against approval of the tax break package during a public hearing last week, said her own analysis of information related to Covanta's operation and the NCIDA's project estimates leads her to believe the deal is bad for taxpayers in Niagara County.

She said documents related to the company's performance, including presentations for stockholders and Securities and Exchange Commission filings, suggest Covanta doesn't need public assistance to move forward with the proposed expansion.

She has been contacting NCIDA and city leaders in recent days, urging them to reconsider the deal, or at least negotiate better terms. 

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