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Empower Niagara has recharged its low-cost plans

Niagara County's Empower Niagara program, whose low-cost electricity was tapped out a few months ago, has replenished its supply.

The County Legislature is to vote Tuesday on deals with two past recipients of the power to take back some that the companies learned they don't need.

In combination with previous moves of this sort, Empower Niagara now has 950 kilowatts it can offer to Niagara County businesses that aren't large enough to qualify for New York Power Authority low-cost electricity programs.

The program was founded in 2007 with 1.3 megawatts of power from the county's allocation under the Power Authority's renewed license to operate the Niagara Power Project.

Snow Park LLC will be giving back electricity for the second time this year.

Originally a year-round winter sports park owned by Smokin' Joe Anderson, the downtown Niagara Falls attraction has become an Indian trading post.

Its original allocation of 400 kilowatts a year was trimmed to 300 kilowatts in February.

Tuesday, lawmakers will vote on reducing Snow Park's annual allocation to 135 kilowatts, in exchange for a 39-month extension of the contract.

Also up for a vote is a reduction in the power allocation to Viatran Corp., a Wheatfield senor manufacturer, from 150 kilowatts to 120 kilowatts, also in exchange for a 39-month contract extension.

In April, Budwey's Market Place, a Newfane supermarket, was given a three-year power extension, but for 175 kilowatts a year instead of 250 kilowatts.

Russell Farms, a Newfane fruit processor, also received an extension in exchange for reducing its allocation from 180 kilowatts to 100 kilowatts per year.

"They're all glad that the power will be available to other small businesses," said Assistant County Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser, the county's power expert. "It's a very good program these legislators have put together."

In late 2011, the Legislature clawed back 1 megawatt, or 1,000 kilowatts, from the county water and sewer districts.

Of that amount, 500 kilowatts was returned to Empower Niagara; the other half was split between the industrial development agencies in the towns of Lockport and Niagara for use in recruiting businesses.

Seven private firms have been aided with the county's electricity. The county claims Empower Niagara was responsible for retaining 398 jobs, creating 171 new jobs and spurring $18.1 million in private investment.

Also on Tuesday's Legislature agenda are some revised allocations of Seneca Niagara Casino money for local events.

Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, will seek $1,000 to help pay for Wheatfield's July 4 concert, and $4,000 to advertise the new Wheatfield Farmers' Market.

Lance altered her original request of $3,000 for the concert and $2,000 for fireworks.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, is seeking $2,500 for the Das Haus German heritage museum in Bergholz.

He dropped a $1,500 request for marketing help for the Niagara County Builders Association home show because there won't be such a show until next year.

Legislator Jason A. Zona, D-Niagara Falls, will seek $2,500 toward the Town of Niagara's bicentennial weekend celebration June 30 and July 1.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com