CANTON — A St. Lawrence County Legislature committee on Monday endorsed an agreement with the New York Power Authority paving the way for the release of $16 million and 20 megawatts of low-cost power for economic development.
Eleven members of the Legislature's Operations Committee approved a contract between NYPA and the proposed St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency spelling out the process for allocating the assets. Legislators Gregory M. Paquin, D-Massena; Tedra L. Cobb, D-Canton; Peter W. FitzRandolph, D-Canton; and Alexander A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, were absent.
Eric J. Gustafson, Local Government Task Force attorney, said there are some parts of the deal that do not sit well with the task force's member towns, but it will still allow the river agency to control the money and power.
"Especially with what's going on in Albany, I think we need to get control of the money sooner rather than later," Robert O. McNeil, county treasurer and task force chairman, told lawmakers.
The river agency represents the county and the towns of Massena, Louisville, Waddington and Lisbon, and has sought the assets — $16 million left over from the defunct St. Lawrence Aquarium and Ecological Center and 20 megawatts of low-cost power — to settle what officials call inequities between NYPA's 50-year licensing settlements to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR power dam in Massena and the Niagara dam in Western New York. The towns and the villages of Massena and Waddington are on the Local Government Task Force.
The contract with NYPA says the money and power can only be used for economic development. NYPA will pay the river agency the $16 million in two installments, but will retain the power until the agency allocates it to a business. The power will in the meantime be sold on the open market, and NYPA will hold profits from its sale in an account the river agency can tap for economic development projects.
Mr. Gustafson said monetary proceeds from the power will not draw interest, and NYPA is so far not willing to hand over interest accrued since January 2007 on the $16 million, despite a previous belief that it would.
"However, I don't believe that should preclude us from moving forward," he said. "It's a balancing act. I hate to lose the interest, but I can live with it if it means we won't lose the monetization of the megawatts."
Lawmakers will hold a special Legislature meeting Monday to give the contracts final approval before the NYPA Board of Trustees meets later this month.