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With post-Huntley era a week away, Town of Tonawanda supervisor plans Albany visit

The post-Huntley era is nearly upon the Town of Tonawanda, with the scheduled retirement next Tuesday of the coal-fired power plant that for decades has generated electricity, air pollution and millions of dollars in annual revenue for the town in lieu of real estate taxes.

“This is really a new era in our town, and I think it’s going to be good for the town over the next 10 to 15 years,” Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger said. “It’s going to take a few years to get there, but in the long run, we’re going to be better off.”

At Monday’s meeting of the Town Board, Emminger said he will travel to Albany to meet Wednesday with members of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s staff, Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, and local state legislators.

“We’re just making sure we’re covering all our bases,” he said Monday. “Huntley retires – closes– in about a week. That’s a very important date in the history of this town.”

The board also approved an agreement with the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District to hire the Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese & Associates lobbying firm to help facilitate efforts to tap into the state’s $19 million Fossil Fuel Plant Closure Fund. The town stands to lose $2 million annually from payments in lieu of taxes from NRG Energy, which owns the power station along River Road.

Redevelopment of the Huntley site will likely take 10 to 15 years and cost in the tens of millions of dollars, Emminger said. That’s if NRG decides to sell the land.

“They can sit on that property for the next 50 years if they want,” Emminger said. “We can’t make them sell it.”

Any new economic development in the town will take place in its western industrial sector, east of Military Road, he said, because the rest of the town is fully built out.

Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. said consultants for the town’s River Road redevelopment project will give a public presentation at the Town Board’s next meeting March 7.

“There’s a lot of exciting things happening on River Road,” Bargnesi said. “Huntley is going to be part of that.”

Emminger said officials have been planning for Huntley’s retirement for the last three to four years, although fears of its closure go back to the late 1970s.

“This is a very serious issue,” Emminger said.

“I invite every resident here and every resident in the Town of Tonawanda to please think hard and challenge this Town Board on ways that we can address Huntley.”