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Power Coalition is short on funds

The Niagara Power Coalition doesn't have enough money under its current budget to cover legal expenses amassed this year, the group's chairman said Friday.

The seven-member organization will have to come up with a deficit budget for the rest of the year at the same time it is working on its 2008 budget, William L. Ross said. "We are going to be in deficit, without any question," Ross told board members.

The group budgeted more than $350,000 for legal expenses this year, but costs will exceed $400,000, said Ross, a Niagara County legislator representing the county in the organization.

So far this year, the coalition has paid $200,000 in legal expenses.

In March, the coalition approved a $380,000 spending plan, the bulk of which would be paid to Nixon Peabody, the law firm that began its work for the coalition this year.

At the time the budget was passed, some officials in the group said they anticipated legal expenses to peak early in the year and decline as time went on.

Others had said they believed the group's legal fees would significantly decrease in the time immediately following a June 2005 settlement agreement with the New York Power Authority on the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project.

Group members had been contributing $30,000 for expenses annually since 2002.

Each coalition member was to contribute about $49,000 this year for its share of the group's costs.

The group's counsel, Stanely W. Widger Jr., a partner in Nixon Peabody's Rochester office, could not be reached to comment after Friday's meeting.

Ross, along with coalition President Charles W. Miller Jr. and Treasurer John J. Baird Jr., plan to meet next week to work on the budgets.

The coalition consists of Niagara County, Niagara Falls, the towns of Lewiston and Niagara, as well as the school districts of Niagara Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter. It was formed to collectively negotiate with the State Power Authority over the Power Project relicensing.

The group recently began receiving some of the low-cost electricity that was part of the settlement terms. In addition to the power, members also are slated to receive a total of $8 million in annual payments.

Group members also have been sued by a former executive director for $37 million.

Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven C. Richards and Lewiston Supervisor Fred M. Newlin voted against the $379,886 budget earlier this year.


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