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Yates hires law firm, engineering company to help review Lighthouse Wind

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Monday’s year-end meeting for the Yates Town Board was the last meeting for Town Clerk Brenda Donald, who is retiring, and John Belson, the town supervisor. Belson lost a close election in November to Jim Simon. Donald and Belson were both thanked for their service on Monday by the Yates Town Board.

(Editor’s Note: This article was updated from an earlier version that stated Somerset hired GHD Services LLC for engineering work. The town has instead hired Wendel for work reviewing the Lighthouse Wind project.)

YATES – The Yates Town Board has retained a Buffalo law firm and also an engineering company to review the preliminary scoping statement from Apex Clean Energy’s wind turbine project and also help the town prepare comments for the New York State Public Service Commission.

The town plans to use intervenor funds from Apex to pay for the legal and engineering services.

The Public Service Commission required Apex to set aside $70,350 for municipalities and citizens’ groups to hire consultants to help review the PSS. That money represents $350 for every proposed megawatt in the project.

Apex wants to build a 201-megawatt wind turbine project in the towns of Somerset and Yates.

If Apex proceeds with the project to a final application stage, it needs to provide another $1,000 per megawatt or $201,000 for the community to review the document and comment on the studies from Apex.

Yates on Monday voted to hire Hodgson Russ in Buffalo and GHD Services LLC, an engineering firm with a Buffalo office. GHD has experience reviewing large-scale wind energy projects.

Yates wants to use intervenor funds to cover the expense for the work by Hodgson Russ and GHD.

The Public Service Commission set up the intervenor funds to be split 50 percent by a local government where the project is planned, and the other half for citizens’ groups.

Dan Spitzer, an attorney with Hodgson Russ, is asking the PSC on behalf of Yates to set aside 75 percent of the $70,350 for the local governments. The Apex project, Lighthouse Wind, covers two towns in two different counties.

Spitzer said during Monday’s Town Board meeting that the two towns are clearly taking the lead in reviewing the 125-page preliminary scoping statement from Apex.

Spitzer requested that the 75 percent or $52,762.50 be split in half for the two towns with Somerset and Yates each receiving $26,381.25. That would leave 25 percent of the intervenor funds, or $17,587.50, for other local parties or citizen’s groups to participate in hiring experts for the review.

Spitzer said Yates and Somerset will try to coordinate the review as much as possible to stretch out the dollars for the two towns.

Spitzer, in a Dec. 28 letter to the PSC, said Yates didn’t budget for the expense of hiring experts and also is under the 2 percent property tax cap. (Click here to see submissions to the PSC.)

“We really don’t want to see taxpayers pay for a private application,” Spitzer said during Monday’s board meeting.

The PSC has set a Jan. 12 deadline for comments on the Apex preliminary scoping statement. The Town Board moved to hire Hodgson Russ and GHD in order to meet the PSC deadline.

Hodgson Russ attorneys Daniel A. Spitzer will be paid $270 per hour and Charles W. Malcomb, $265 per hour, for their work on the PSS. GHD engineers will be paid the following per hour: Camie Jarrell, $141; Dave Britton, $177; and Robert Adams, $187.

Two incoming members of the Yates Town Board, John Riggi and Town Supervisor-elect Jim Simon, will take office Jan. 1. They said after Monday’s meeting the outgoing Town Board should have refrained from hiring Hodgson Russ and GHD until the new board was in office.

Simon said there still would have been time to meet the Jan. 12 deadline for comments by waiting to hire consultants next week.