Members of a nonprofit group formed as part of the relicensing of the Lewiston power project have been summoned to a meeting next month by a state senator who is questioning their use of cash, low-cost power and other resources.
The Niagara Power Coalition — which consists of representatives from the seven local entities that were involved in relicensing negotiations with the New York Power Authority — is preparing for an April 12 meeting called by state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane.
The meeting follows Maziarz’s suggestion last month that the group engage in a series of performance audits to demonstrate how each of the coalition’s members has used its share of cash, low-cost hydropower and Niagara River Greenway development money in recent years. In a March 13 letter to the coalition, Maziarz also asked the coalition to “specify and present all expenditures by the NPC and each of the seven entities comprising the NPC for legal fees.” In his letter, Maziarz asked members to be prepared to present their findings during a meeting at 2 p.m. April 12 at the Niagara County Center for Economic Development.
“A thorough review such as this will allow the people of Niagara County (to) have a complete understanding of every facet of the Niagara Power Coalition’s performance to date,” Maziarz wrote.
In response, each member of the coalition delivered letters to Maziarz’s office, describing in general terms their use of the resources in question. NPC Chairman William Ross, a Conservative who also serves as chairman of the Niagara County Legislature, personally delivered a letter on behalf of the entire group. After Tuesday’s coalition meeting, he indicated that the group will continue to work to address the senator’s concerns.
“Bottom line — I want to keep it as open as possible,” Ross said.
The NPC consists of the city of Niagara Falls, Niagara County, the towns of Lewiston and Niagara and the Niagara Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter school districts. Its members were involved in the negotiations for the 2005 Host Communities Relicensing Settlement Agreement with the New York Power Authority. Under that deal, the individual NPC partners receive an allocation of $5 million per year for 50 years from the power authority. The group also shares in allocations of hydropower under the agreement. The shares are split based on percentages worked out by the coalition members.
On Tuesday, John Schiavone, a representative from the auditing firm, Lumsden & McCormick, presented the 2011 NPC audit report. Schiavone described it as a “clean” audit report, noting that “no significant audit findings” were revealed during his firm’s review. The report indicates that the coalition finished 2011 with a net deficit of about $9,700 in part due to legal fees that Schiavone described as a “little greater than anticipated.”
According to the report, the coalition as of Dec. 31, 2011, has approved a total of 17 projects for funding at a value of roughly $31.3 million, with $7.65 million having been disbursed. A breakdown contained in the audit report showed slightly more than $7.5 million remaining in the overall fund balance for the group, with the Niagara Falls School District having the largest amount available at $2.1 million.