Legislators approve energy loan program

MAYVILLE — A local law establishing the framework for an energy loan program received unanimous approval from the Chautauqua County Legislature.

The 18-0 vote during Wednesday’s meeting paves the way for state financing for energy efficiency upgrades for commercial properties and multi-family homes. Qualified owners who implement energy efficiency projects would be able to get 100 percent financing through Energize NY Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which works in conjunction with NYSERDA.

Legislator Mark Odell, R-Brocton, said the law is a key action item to move the county to be designated by the state as a “Clean Energy Community.” He said the county could obtain up to $250,000 in grant funding to develop its own clean energy actions.

Odell said the idea was sparked from the Energy Subcommittee’s review of the Chautauqua County 20/20 Comprehensive Plan’s energy section.

“As generating local revenues and leveraging local dollars are the legislative body’s favorite activities, (stakeholders) are working towards obtaining Clean Energy Community status,” he said.

The Energy Improvement Corporation, a local development corporation that’s focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy, would act on behalf of the county to provide financing to qualified property owners. Funds provided to the owner would in turn be paid through charges on their real property tax bills. Funds provided would not exceed the lesser of 10 percent of the real property’s appraised value.

Bob Reuther, owner of White Oak Power LLC, came before legislators to show his support for the program. A Lily Dale resident, Reuther said he’s worked on energy upgrades and has found that financing is the main barrier to making Chautauqua County energy efficient.

“Financing like this will be a key to moving this county forward into the energy century,” he said. “I can’t express to you how important this bill is to the county and industry.”

Speaking against the law was Roy Harvey of Mayville. He said New York state’s energy policy is a byproduct of the National Resources Defense Council, a New York City-based environmental advocacy group. He said they’re pushing carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

“They’re pushing New York state into a 50 percent wind and solar program that will be a real nightmare for many people in our town,” he said.

At first, County Executive Vince Horrigan said he struggled with the proposal. Examining it more, he said the program could be another tool for more economic development.

“It will be interesting to see how many take advantage of it,” he said. “There’s no cost to the taxpayer. I feel that the county is protected well as they have a fund just in case there’s a default. The county would be made whole.”

In other matters, legislators approved to proceed with engineering and preliminary work for a shoulder expansion project on Dale Drive in Cassadaga. The project received $588,000 in federal funding, which was disbursed by the state Department of Transportation. The project entails paving the county road’s shoulders to provide for safer recreation.

The resolution came up during committee meetings last month. The proposal was tabled and sent for review to the county Planning Board, which ranked the capital project in the top 10 among other proposals.

“I think we all have good confidence based on that ranking,” Odell said. “It’s a good project to move forward with.”

The county will provide a local share of $147,000 for the project. Construction isn’t anticipated to begin until next year.


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