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Prattsburgh, Ecogen may face off again

The town of Prattsburgh and wind developer Ecogen may be headed back to state Supreme Court Justice John Ark’s courtroom.

Town board members voted 3-2 Monday to respond to Ecogen’s latest legal action – a stay – which could force another hearing by Ark on a three-year old dispute between the town and the developer.

One of the issues is a 168-day window Ark left open for Ecogen to show it had “vested rights” to the wind farm. Ecogen has claimed for at least four years it has those rights and is prepared to begin construction on a 16-turbine wind farm.

The question is when Ark’s 168-day deadline started, town board members said.

But the unity the board has shown in the past several months split wide open over concerns about mounting legal fees, now pegged at $120,000.

Town Supervisor Lenny McConnell said the town faces as much as $50,000 – $60,000 in additional court costs if the matter goes to the state Court of Appeals. The town could pull about $53,000 from reserves, but would have to float a bond if legal fees exceeded that.

McConnell also questioned Town Councilman Chuck Shick’s report that responding to the current issue would cost in the neighborhood of $10,000. Shick’s estimate was later verified during a teleconference by the town’s attorney Ed Hourihan.

The two men also clashed several times during the meeting, with McConnell insisting the town cannot win the lawsuit, and Shick saying the town has the upper hand in the current dispute and should not give up.

Other board members said they wanted more information on what’s at stake before the town pursues the matter to the appellate court.

After the teleconference with Hourihan, the board agree by a narrow margin to the interim legal step that could bring the matter back to Ark’s court.

Shick and councilwomen Anneke Radin-Snaith and Angela Einwachter voted for the resolution, while McConnell and Councilman Greg Booth voted against it.