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County to act on incinerator refinancing

NIAGARA FALLS - A Niagara County economic development agency has scheduled a public hearing on allowing Covanta Holding Corp. to refinance $165 million worth of bonds on its energy-from-waste incinerator on 56th Street.

The Niagara Area Development Corp., a subsidiary of the county Industrial Development Agency, will hold the hearing at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in City Hall, said Susan C. Langdon, IDA director of project development.

Its board, which has the same members as the IDA board, is expected to act on the request Oct. 10.

The refinanced bonds will enable Covanta, based in Morristown, N.J., to save money on interest on a variety of bond issues, which are tax-exempt to the investors.

The IDA first issued bonding authority for the incinerator in 1980, when Hooker Chemical Co. sought to go into the energy-from-waste business. Those original bonds were refinanced by American Ref-Fuel Co., when it bought the incinerator from Hooker's corporate successor, Occidental Chemical Corp., in May 1994. They were previously refinanced in 2001.

The incinerator employs 86 people with an annual payroll of $8.9 million. It burns 821,000 tons of garbage per year.

Langdon said the County Legislature also must approve the bond refinancing. The Legislature's Economic Development Committee signed off on the deal Sept. 18. Langdon said the bonds are a debt that must be paid by Covanta.

Langdon said the Oct. 2 public hearing will come right after a hearing on an IDA tax abatement request by the new owners of the closed Hotel Niagara. That hearing is slated to start at 4 p.m. in City Hall.

JSK International, headed by Harry Stinson of Hamilton, Ont., plans to buy the 88-year-old hotel for $2.6 million and invest $21 million to renovate and reopen it.

According to its request for a 10-year property tax break, JSK plans to create 70 full-time and 85 part-time jobs within three years, plus 100 construction jobs on the makeover. Its request also includes an exemption on paying sales tax on building materials and furnishings.

In all, the IDA abatement, if granted, would save JSK an estimated $5.64 million.

Langdon said the IDA has approved a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, for Sustainable BioElectric of Cleveland, which plans to open a $4.1 million facility on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield to convert organic waste into electricity by using microbes to digest it into methane and carbon gas that would drive a generator. The plant also would produce a liquid effluent that could be sold to farmers for use as fertilizer.

Seven jobs would be created over two years, the company estimated. The tax breaks, including sales tax exemptions on materials and equipment, would save the company an estimated $236,000.