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City wants control of low-cost power

City leaders want all their options open for how they will distribute low-cost power the city will receive from the Niagara Power Project beginning in 2007. The power is part of the project's 50-year relicensing agreement.

Mayor Vince Anello recommended to the City Council during a Tuesday work session that the city set up a "municipal distribution agency" to receive and distribute the cheap electricity.

Anello and Council members say they would like to join Niagara County's agency -- formed in 1983 -- to manage its share of the power, but also want a safeguard in place if they change their minds. The county has offered the six other communities and school districts that belong to the Niagara Power Coalition the services of its distribution agency, but there is no agreement on how the arrangement would work.

"Until we see that agreement, we really can't make a decision on which way to go," Anello said. "In the future some additional power could come to the coalition and we want to be in control of our own destiny."

The coalition negotiated with the New York Power Authority to reach a 50-year settlement that will give the seven entities 25 megawatts of power at 1 cent per kilowatt. The City of Niagara Falls will receive 7 megawatts.

The coalition school districts -- Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield -- cannot form their own agencies and must receive power through one of the municipalities. The Niagara Falls School District has decided that if it does not like the county's agreement it would join with the city, and Board of Education members and attorneys were on hand Tuesday to encourage the Council to form an agency.

The mayor and many City Council members said they plan to do so because their prime concern is making sure the cheap electricity nets the city the biggest benefits.

Anello said he wants to offer the electricity to small businesses through a grant program.

To set up the city agency would require a resolution from the Council, and the three Council members at Tuesday's meeting said they would support that action. After a public hearing, voters would have to approve the agency in a referendum. Anello said he would like that vote to happen in May or June.


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