LITTLE VALLEY – Two important pieces of legislation – one to set a four-day work week for county employees and another regarding the county’s role in wind energy development – were sent back to committee Wednesday by the Cattaraugus County Legislature.
Several lawmakers urged a vote on the bill ordering labor union negotiations for a four-day, 40-hour week in the Public Works Department, which is designed to save a small amount of energy for the county and help workers save on transportation costs. However, supporters could not keep the measure from going back to the Labor Relations, County Operations and Finance committees.
The bill also is likely to be placed on the Public Works Committee agenda, to quiet complaints about its omission on that committee’s agenda from some lawmakers, and despite assurances from some committee members that the topic had already come up there.
“In the County Operations Committee [last Wednesday], it got only three signatures and no one was there to explain it, it didn’t even go through the Public Works Committee,” said Carmen Vecchiarella, D-Salamanca.
When asked for his opinion by several of the lawmakers, Public Works Commissioner Dave Rivet said its success ultimately will depend on union concurrence, but he noted he would favor using the system from Memorial Day to Labor Day. He said he is willing to try it and support among the workers has begun to grow.
Only five lawmakers voted against sending the proposal back to the committees.
Also referred back to the Development and Agriculture and the Finance Committees was a directive to the county attorney to spend $50,000 on the law firm of Hiscock and Barclay. If revived and adopted, the measure would provide advice to lawmakers on tax exemptions for alternative energy systems and on negotiations with taxing entities in line to receive benefits from potential wind energy development.
The proposal was discussed last week after the Development and Agriculture Committee held a phone conference with a firm partner, Kevin R. McAuliffe. Besides the question of the advisability of “opting out” of the state mandated 15-year tax credits for alternative energy systems installation, a key question is the role of the county Industrial Development Agency in determining payments to the various taxing authorities.
McAuliffe told the committee last week that he helped a Lewis County community obtain an $11 million annual payment- in-lieu-of-tax package and worked with the local industrial development agency in doing so.
A key sponsor of the proposal and the Development and Ag Committee chairman, Burrell asked to return it to the committee, stating it is premature to hire a lawyer and suggested a work session with neighboring communities experienced in hosting wind energy systems. He said he also would like to invite officials from Chautauqua County to discuss their recent administrative action on wind energy systems. “Also I want the [county] IDA to come to the legislature to explain it to my committee and to Finance,” he said.
The Legislature has an abbreviated summer agenda. Committees will next meet Aug. 20, with the full Legislature meeting Aug. 27.
By Kathy Kellogg
25 July 2008
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