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With new chairman, Niagara Legislature forms committee to search for next county manager

LOCKPORT – Newly named Niagara County Legislature Chairman W. Keith McNall took his seat Tuesday, and one of his first acts was to line up a search committee to look for a new county manager.

Jeffrey M. Glatz, who has held the job for a little more than five years, announced on New Year’s Eve, after a meeting with McNall, that he will step down as of March 31.

The committee will have Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, as its chairman. Other members from the majority caucus include Legislators Michael A. Hill, R-Hartland, and Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport. The Democratic members will include Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso and Legislators Owen T. Steed and Jason A. Zona, all of Niagara Falls, plus Michael P. Capizzi Jr., of Lewiston, owner of Michael’s Restaurant on Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls. Majority Leader Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, said the Republican side will name a citizen member by the end of this week.

“We will take our time with this. There is a local law, and we will follow that law right to a T,” said McNall, a Lockport Republican. The job will be advertised soon, with a deadline of Jan. 23. The committee will hold interviews during the week of Feb. 8, McNall said.

McNall told Glatz, “In my opinion, you have been an excellent county manager. You have been able and enthusiastic about implementing positive change across our county.” Glatz received a standing ovation from the lawmakers but did not speak.

Also Tuesday, McNall’s predecessor, William L. Ross, of Wheatfield, was appointed to the county Industrial Development Agency board, replacing newly elected County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski.

The Legislature gave its stamp of approval to a reduction in the payments made in lieu of taxes by the owners of a coal-fired power plant in Somerset.

Upstate New York Power Producers and its subsidiary, Somerset Operating Co., are selling the Lake Road plant to Riesling Power LLC, although the actual operator will be Beowulf Energy, a New York City firm.

Before the sale goes through, the sellers are asking for a $500,000-a-year reduction in the total payments that the plant makes to the county, the Town of Somerset and the Barker Central School District.

The total was set at $5.12 million last year, a price that expires as of the end of 2016. The figure would be reduced to $4.62 million for the 2016-17 school year and the 2017 county and town taxes. A further reduction, to $4.12 million, is slated for the following year, according to the Legislature resolution.

Syracuse said, “It’s trying times for coal facilities, and this plant will be the last one standing.”

The school district receives 59.25 percent of the money, the county 31.5 percent and the town 9.25 percent. Approval from the three taxing jurisdictions is needed before the IDA can act on the altered tax break.

The IDA will hold a public hearing on the changes at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Somerset Town Hall, 8700 Haight Road. However, the IDA has canceled its January board meeting, and unless a special session is called, its next meeting will be Feb. 10.