The Somerset Town Board will meet at 7 p.m. April 23 to discuss wind energy and possibly finalize a Host Community Agreement.
The board, which voted against pursuing Empire State Wind Energy on March 24, bowed to public pressure and voted to invite the Oneida-based company. Keith Pitman, the chief executive officer of Empire State Wind Energy, will represent the company.
Lawyers from Andrews, Pusateri, Brandt, Shoemaker and Roberson agreed to study the proposed contract and have a report in 8-10 hours. Initially, the Lockport firm said it would take two to five weeks to prepare.
Edwin J. Shoemaker is listed as the town attorney, but has not attended board meetings in a year. Robert Roberson has represented the law firm, which is paid $175 a hour.
The firm has already billed the town 113 hours for the project since June, according to Dan Engert, who joined the council in January.
“At every turn, we stumble with this project,” Engert said. “It’s an exercise in frustration.”
Residents were upset to learn of the breakdown in communications between the town and Empire State Wind Energy.
Supervisor Richard Meyers said: “We’re hoping we have a completed, agreed-upon document by the 23rd. At this point, we’re going to get our attorneys to work on a host community agreement.”
While the board hoped to have an ESWE attorney at the meeting, Meyers said it was not necessary. “Pitman knows what the attorney thinks,” Meyers said. “He is the CEO of the company.”
Engert, an administrative captain at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department, attended the Community Wind Energy 2008 Windustry national conference at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. Windustry is a non-profit organization working to increase wind energy opportunities for rural landowners and communities.
“We promote wind energy through outreach, educational materials, and technical assistance to rural landowners, local communities and utilities, and state, regional, and nonprofit collaborations,” Windustry states on its Web site.
By Bill Wolcott
15 April 2008
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