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Lewis County, Lowville officials have questionable closed-door meeting  

County attorney Joan E. McNichol said Wednesday that the closed-session discussion concerned a “potential contractual relationship” between the county and village, as well as another potential entity, to help with the infrastructure work, as well as updating legislators on negotiations for the long-proposed Roaring Brook Wind Farm project.

Mr. Freeman said he would be “somewhat sympathetic” to the local officials but noted that the only contractual issues allowed to be discussed in executive session are those involving collective bargaining negotiations.

“Obviously, that’s not the case,” he said.

Credit:  By STEVE VIRKLER | Watertown Daily Times | March 3, 2016 | www.watertowndailytimes.com ~~

LOWVILLE – Lewis County legislators on Tuesday evening improperly met behind closed doors with village representatives to discuss funding for proposed infrastructure upgrades related to the Kraft Heinz expansion, according to New York’s open-meetings expert.

“The shoe, it seems, doesn’t fit,” said Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government. “Even though we want it to fit.”

During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the legislators, Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, chairman of the legislative Buildings and Grounds Committee, requested an executive session to discuss “potential contracts.” He indicated that no formal actions would likely be taken following the closed session.

Others invited to stay included Lowville Mayor Donna M. Smith and Trustee Dan L. Salmon and Lewis County Director of Planning Frank J. Pace.

County attorney Joan E. McNichol said Wednesday that the closed-session discussion concerned a “potential contractual relationship” between the county and village, as well as another potential entity, to help with the infrastructure work, as well as updating legislators on negotiations for the long-proposed Roaring Brook Wind Farm project.

Mr. Freeman said he would be “somewhat sympathetic” to the local officials but noted that the only contractual issues allowed to be discussed in executive session are those involving collective bargaining negotiations.

“Obviously, that’s not the case,” he said.

Ms. McNichol also said the updates to the board would also fall under attorney-client privilege, which is allowable under state law.

“We’re not trying to keep anybody in the dark,” Ms. McNichol said. “It is a privileged matter at this point.”

That privilege would not seem to apply, however, so long as village officials were present, Mr. Freeman said.

Without yet knowing whether state funding will be available and, if so, how much will be offered, the county and village are floating various scenarios on how to make the project work, said Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan.

“There’s numbers being thrown out,” Mr. Tabolt said.

With so much uncertainty, local officials don’t care to publicly discuss figures, particularly if that would suggest to state officials that their help is not needed, he said.

“We certainly don’t want to do anything to jeopardize this project,” Mr. Tabolt said.

The county and village are seeking state funding for an immediate $17.7 million project to upgrade five main streets in the village and make improvements to the water and sewer systems, as well as a $37 million project for a new sewage treatment system featuring four anaerobic digesters.

The state Environmental Facilities Corp. has already approved a 30-year, no-interest loan for the $17.7 million, but grants will also be needed to make it feasible.

Kraft Heinz is proposing a 67,756-square-foot string cheese addition in the rear of its Utica Boulevard plant, a 5,923-square-foot receiving bay addition on the north side and a 2,169-square-foot two-pack addition on the front.

Once completed, the project – currently under review by the village Planning Board – is expected to increase daily milk usage at the plant from 1 million to 3 million pounds and could add up to 150 jobs.

[rest of article available at source]

Source:  By STEVE VIRKLER | Watertown Daily Times | March 3, 2016 | www.watertowndailytimes.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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