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Officials push Huntley for state project

Elected officials from the Town of Tonawanda and the Village of Kenmore on Monday called on Gov. George E. Pataki to select the Huntley Station as the site for a billion-dollar "clean coal" power plant to create jobs and increase the tax base.

"We cannot afford to lose this project; there's too much at stake," Kenmore Mayor John W. Beaumont said during a news conference in the Municipal Building.

Beaumont was joined by Town of Tonawanda Deputy Supervisor John E. Donnelly, Erie County Legislator Michele M. Iannello of Kenmore, Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board President Melissa M. Brinson and acting Ken-Ton School Superintendent Anne L. Marotta.

The Huntley Station, the largest single property taxpayer in Erie County, is one of five sites vying for the state initiative. The project is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs for up to four years and about 140 permanent jobs.

The winner will receive a long-term contract to sell the plant's power, about 700 megawatts, to the New York Power Authority -- a key step needed to secure financing. The winning bidder also will be in line for lucrative incentives, including Empire Zone benefits, up to $1 billion in tax-exempt financing and, depending on the site, brownfields cleanup tax credits. Pataki's decision is expected this week.

Donnelly said the goal of the news conference was to support Huntley, located on River Road in the Town of Tonawanda, encourage Pataki to select the plant's proposal and advise the public about the financial and economic impact. NRG Energy, owner and operator of Huntley, will this year pay $2.4 million in town and highway taxes, $7 million in property taxes to Ken-Ton schools and $1.5 million in county taxes.

The elected officials expressed concern that Huntley would eventually fold if it is not selected for the project. The plant has already scaled back its operations from six turbines to two.

"I think the writing's on the wall," Donnelly said.

If the plant were to close, property taxes would climb by 8.5 percent and school taxes would rise by 12.2 percent, the officials said.

"We encourage all citizens to contact the governor, so we'll be able to retain this tax base," Beaumont said.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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