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Genesee agency transfers tax breaks to new owner of Muller Quaker plant

BATAVIA – The directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center Thursday approved the transfer of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement to the Dairy Farmers of America, a national dairy marketing cooperative that has agreed to purchase the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant at the Genesee Agri-Business Park.

The board’s 6-1 vote extends the PILOT only through 2016, after which the Dairy Farmers of America – to be known as Batavia Dairy Products – will have the opportunity to apply for tax abatements of its own, said Steven G. Hyde, the industrial development agency’s president and chief executive officer.

“Once the DFA has its strategy down – how many jobs will be created, what products it will sell and the amount of its investment – and before the PILOT ratchets up to 100 percent, it can come to us and reapply for an incentive package,” Hyde said.

The PILOT granted to Muller Quaker gave the yogurt manufacturer six years of no property tax payments, Hyde said.

“The current PILOT has three more years with no payments on it, but we are effectively increasing it to full payment starting in 2017 – getting rid of the last three years at zero percent,” he said. “However, we want to give Dairy Farmers of America an opportunity to maximize their investment and job creation potential.”

Hyde said that Dairy Farmers of America officials have indicated their desire to obtain tax incentives “due to the fact that dairy processing is a low-margin business and to the cost of doing business in New York State.”

A key provision of the PILOT transfer is Dairy Farmers of America’s pledge to make a $300,000 payment for water and waste water/sewer infrastructure sustainability to the Town of Batavia and the assumption of fire district fees.

Director John L. Rizzo of Le Roy voted against the transfer. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Hyde said the sale of the plant to the Dairy Farmers of America is expected to be completed by next week.

In other action, the board:

• Accepted a bid of $394,900 from O’Brien & Gere of Syracuse for design, engineering, construction management and inspection services of a substation as well as engineering and design of the radial tap and service line to the substation at Western New York Science Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

• Renewed a contract with Genesee County that calls for the county to provide $215,014 in support of the agency for 2016. The amount is the same as what the county paid last year.

• Approved two one-year pacts with e3 Communications of Buffalo for public and media relations services, the first for agency-related developments at a cost not to exceed $18,000, and the second for news and information relating to WNY STAMP at a cost not to exceed $24,000.

• Continued an agreement with H. Sicherman & Co. of Lockport through 2016 for technical support in obtaining Office of Community Renewal grants and other funding tied to economic development projects.

• Promoted Penny Kennett from office manager to operations manager and approved a pay increase from her present salary of $39,222.