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Lawmakers oppose Power Authority windmill project

LOCKPORT—The Niagara County Legislature voted, 14-4, Tuesday to oppose the New York Power Authority’s Great Lakes wind power project.

“We listened to our citizens, and we reflect the voice of the people,” said Legislator David E. Godfrey, RWilson.

But Legislator Renae Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, a project supporter, said the Legislature’s special committee investigating the project had ignored 3,000 letters she said had been received in favor of it. She said she has had the letters since October.

Committee Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said he looked at the letters and concluded most were photocopies or form letters sent by Erie County residents.

“I just feel the work of the committee is not complete because we haven’t reviewed those letters,” Kimble said. She and three other lawmakers from the Falls—Democrats Dennis

F. Virtuoso and Jason J. Cafarella and Republican Vincent M. Sandonato – voted no. Richard A. Marasco, D-Niagara Falls, was absent.

The committee was appointed last summer to short-circuit a resolution opposing the possibility that the Power Authority might allow windmills to be installed in Lake Ontario between Youngstown and Wilson.

Power Authority spokeswoman Connie Cullen on Tuesday again refused to disclose which companies have bid on the project and which Great Lakes sites they are interested in. She said this is supposed to be revealed “early in 2011.”

Local opposition was led by the Youngstown Yacht Club, which holds races in the potential project area, and users of Old Fort Niagara. Godfrey said many e-mails came from 18th century military re-enactors.

“The view was of the most concern,” he said, citing 316 e-mails, almost all opposing the project.

“A lot of the opposition was driven by residents from Erie County,” said Kimble, who noted that Lake Erie is more likely to be one of the windmill sites than Niagara County’s Lake Ontario shoreline.

“Why would we put forth this resolution at this time?” she asked.

In another matter, the Legislature voted to sue the owners of the Barton Hill Hotel in Lewiston to seek about $24,000 in payments in lieu of taxes the hotel failed to pay before the Industrial Development Agency canceled its tax break last summer.

The hotel also failed to pay about $43,000 in regular taxes and is currently on the county’s tax foreclosure list. The hotel’s mortgage holder also is trying to foreclose, although hotel owner Diane Finkbeiner vowed last month it will stay open.

Legislator Richard J. Soluri, RLewiston, who as mayor of Lewiston was a key supporter of the project, abstained on the vote in committee.

Also Tuesday, the Legislature approved County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz’s appointment of John J. Cicchetti of Lewiston as interim probation director, replacing Anthony Mauro, who retired last week.