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Legislature approves lease for wind turbine material storage

MAYVILLE – The issue garnered much debate, but a lease for county space to store wind turbine materials received approval at Wednesday’s Chautauqua County Legislature meeting.

Fifteen county legislators supported the lease with BNSF Logistics for vacant county space on South Roberts Road in Dunkirk.

The temporary lease for approximately four months would commence if BNSF Logistics is granted a contract award to ship materials to Arkwright. It’s one of two companies vying for the award with the other located in Erie County.

Legislators George Borrello, R-Hanover; Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg; Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, were among those who voted against the lease.

Lease details show the county receiving $15,000 per month during the four-month period.

Before the lease was approved by legislators, residents for and against the Arkwright wind project took to the microphone. When the resolution came up for consideration, various legislators issued their comments supporting and disapproving the project and lease.

Villenova resident Angelo Graziano was among the local residents urging the legislature to vote against the lease.

“Lease to someone else who will stay,” he said.

Frederic Norton, Arkwright town supervisor, told legislators not to throw the money they’d get from the lease away. Norton went on to praise the project and the money coming in to the town as he said they need it to operate. The gallery of dissenters responded to his comments with sighs and chuckles.

Borrello was one of a few legislators who spoke out against the proposed lease. He said $15,000 a month for 10 acres of brownfield property shows how much money wind companies are willing to waste. He said it’s disheartening to sit and watch neighbors and friends at each other’s throats over wind turbines.

“There is no profit in wind turbines without taxpayer subsidies. That’s the part that I have a problem with,” he said. “These companies are out there wasting our money, our taxpayer money. They’re subsidized at every level of government.”

Legislator Bob Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, said the lease would benefit the city of Dunkirk. By taking the $60,000, he said it could go to help remediate and make the site appealing for future development.

“Right now, we’ve been in the process of trying to find shovel-ready sites for possible development and expansion with the Athenex project coming on board,” he said. “We have a cold storage warehouse we’ve been having a hard time finding a place for that to go. A lot of people said why don’t you put it at the (South Roberts) site. The problem is it’s not shovel ready.”

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, said the only issue before legislators was whether to accept the $60,000 in revenue.

“If we don’t approve this lease, this company is liable to go to some other place,” he said.

In other matters, legislators unanimously approved a local law to authorize an assistance program for municipalities that successfully dissolve or merge. The bill sponsored by Niebel is the first step in a process to assist villages or towns after the consolidation or merger takes effect. The process and procedure as to how municipalities request and receive funds still needs to be worked out.

County Executive Vince Horrigan said the local law could reinforce the county’s bid to receive $20 million in grant awards from the state municipal competition to help spur consolidation and restructuring.

“We feel pretty good about our application,” he said.

The legislature also approved to allocate $75,000 in 3 percent occupancy tax funding to support the LECOM Health Challenge in July. Requests to the state to continue the 5 percent occupancy tax were approved as well as a request to continue authorizing the additional 1 percent sales tax to maintain the 8 percent rate.

An environmental easement on the former C & B Dry Cleaners site in Jamestown to the state Department of Environmental Conservation was approved. Legislators also supported a resolution denying Level 3 Communications applications for corrected tax rolls and refunds for 2013-17.