The Town Board agreed Monday to maintain the town's status as a member of the Niagara Power Coalition but unanimously rejected joining a county-run municipal distribution authority, which would be used to distribute the low-cost power.
The concern cited by all board members was the lack of any clear plan for the new authority.
Supervisor Fred Newlin said he received an e-mail from William Ross, chairman of both the Niagara County Legislature and the Niagara Power Coalition, that gave the town a Wednesday deadline to decide whether it will remain in the coalition. Wednesday is the date of the next power coalition meeting.
"It's absurd for us to vote. We don't even know what our rights are. Our needs [for the low-cost power] are different than the other members. It frightens me that we would be getting into a contract without a [written] contract," Councilman Sean Edwards said.
Newlin said the issue has been weighing heavily on the Town Board.
"I think we would be better off with control [of the power] in our hands. Lewiston has a different use for this power. We are the only member who plans to use the power to reduce costs to residents," Newlin said.
Newlin added that the concerns voiced by the Lewiston members often seem to be shouted down and criticized, even though later they are found to be valid.
Councilman Michael Johnson said: "We need more information, and the other entities [Niagara County, City of Niagara Falls, Town of Niagara and schools districts of Niagara-Wheatfield, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara Falls] should want the same. It's not just, 'Oh, here Lewiston goes again pulling the plug.' "
To join the county's distribution authority, the town would have to pay an annual membership fee based on its share of the power, which would be $80,000 for the Town of Lewiston for 2006.
The Town Board did agree to pay its share of the $17,598 the coalition overspent last year. All seven coalition members will equally share this cost.
"The [Town] Board has had some concerns about budget and accounting practices of the Niagara Power Coalition. The full amount of $210,000 is 50 percent over their projected annual budget. Certainly this is a red flag," Newlin said.
Johnson agreed, and board members asked that the Niagara Power Coalition provide a breakdown of these overrun expenses before agreeing to pay for the overrun costs. "Certainly we are obligated to pay our fair share," Johnson added.