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Ethanol fuel production plant proposed

An $81 million proposal to build what could be the state's first ethanol fuel production site was aired at the Orleans County Legislature meeting Wednesday.

Gabrielle Barone, county manager of business development and Empire Zone coordinator, said that WNY Energy, based in Livingston County, is proposing the project for 144 acres on Bates Road in the Town of Shelby and three parcels nearby in the Town of Ridgeway.

The production facility would be across Bates Road from the Medina Industrial Park. The project is proposed in a state Empire Zone, which provides economic incentives to new and existing businesses. It is expected to add at least 50 jobs in Orleans County over a five-year period along with the chance for area farmers to sell their corn for conversion to ethanol, which can fuel automobiles.

Specific tax incentives, if any, offered to WNY Energy were not discussed.

"The Governor's Office will do an official announcement of it," Barone told the legislators. "More particulars will be announced as we move forward."

Gov. George E. Pataki recently called for efforts to develop alternative sources of fuel such as ethanol.

County officials said ethanol fuel-producing projects are moving ahead in Fulton, north of Syracuse, and Seneca Falls, west of Syracuse. Orleans County leaders said there are an estimated 90 ethanol producing sites throughout the United States.

"I think it is important that Orleans County beat out several other counties," Barone said. "It is something not handed out by any means."

An estimated $66 million would go for development of the site and construction of several buildings. Construction could start as soon as spring of 2007. Another $15 million is proposed for additional development or what county officials said were "soft" costs related to the project.

"It's a beginning," said David Callard, at-large legislator for western Orleans County.

"I'm excited about this," said Legislator William Eick, a Republican who represents the towns of Clarendon, Shelby and Barre. "It is 99 percent go."

The project would also need approval from the Shelby Town Board and Orleans County Planning Board.

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