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Town of Oakfield

November 11, 2021 - 7:16am

oakfield-volunteer-fire-department-logo.jpgOakfield lawmakers reportedly are nearing a revised agreement that would end a months-long standoff over the amount the town is required to pay the village for fire protection service offered by the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department.

“It appears we’re pretty close to resolving this issue … which is great,” Oakfield Village Mayor David Boyle told The Batavian on Wednesday afternoon.

Boyle said he has spoken on the telephone with Town Supervisor Matt Martin and, if all goes well as they finalize the details, he expects them to issue a joint statement in the near future – possibly by the end of the week.

The mayor said both the town and village boards have met in recent days to talk about the terms of a new fire protection agreement. However, he said he wasn’t prepared to provide any specifics at this point.

He did say that mediation by the fire department’s attorney, as suggested by Oakfield FD Chief Sean Downing, was not necessary, although he did appreciate Downing’s efforts in finding a solution to the dispute.

The situation became public in late September when the village board threatened to stop fire protection for town residents, including the Oakfield-Alabama School District, on Nov. 30 if the town did not pay a $78,648 bill for services rendered during the 2020-21 fiscal year that ended on May 31.

At that time, Boyle indicated that the town also had not paid for the first three months of this fiscal year, and felt the town was “holding the village hostage” in an attempt to renegotiate the shared services pact.

Fire trucks and equipment are owned by the village, which directs the OVFD. The building on Albert Street is owned by the fire department.

The current payment structure to cover operational and equipment costs stipulates that the village pays 42 percent and the town pays 58 percent. Boyle has said that when breaking that down by assessed valuation, village residents were charged $1.62 per $1,000 while town residents were charged 60 cents per $1,000.

The town board disputed those figures, and put out a statement that it wished to work toward “a fair and equitable fire agreement.”

As of mid-October, the village’s position was that the town pays the entire amount due to the village and signs a contract for this fiscal year (or a multi-year agreement) and then the village board would be open to exploring any changes.

The town, meanwhile, communicated on its website that it was seeking a three-year service contract only that would not include capital expenses because the village owns all the fire equipment.

Both Boyle and Martin previously said that the matter was being turned over to the village and town attorneys, respectively, who likely offered advice that has – according to Boyle – put them on the threshold of a deal.

Previously: Fire chief's suggestion of mediation may be the answer to ending stalemate between town, village boards

October 22, 2021 - 8:27am

oakfield-volunteer-fire-department-logo.jpgLeave it to a first responder to jump into the fray and attempt to put out the “fire” that has embroiled the Oakfield village and town boards over the financial payment plan for fire protection for their residents.

On Thursday night, Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, said that he is working toward a meeting of town, village and fire department officials, with OVFD attorney Mark Butler of Williamsville acting as a mediator.

“It’s time to get this thing resolved and move forward,” Downing said. “The fire department is stuck in the middle here.”

Downing said citizens are upset over the impasse and several of them voiced their displeasure at a recent town board meeting.

After that, the fire chief said he suggested having representatives of the village and town sit down with fire department personnel and Butler.

“I’m drafting a letter to send to our attorney for review and for the town (Supervisor Matt Martin) and the village (Mayor David Boyle) to sign (indicating) that they will come to the meeting,” Downing said. “The letter also reads that they will agree to what our attorney recommends.”

Downing said he is proposing a few dates for the meeting in an attempt to find one that accommodates everyone involved.

Martin, responding to an email from The Batavian, reported that “a tentative meeting is in the works.”

Boyle, speaking by telephone yesterday, also acknowledged that “a meeting is being set up by the fire chief.”

The dispute centers upon how much the town should pay for fire protection services offered by the village, which owns the fire department trucks and equipment. The building itself, on Albert Street, is owned by the fire department.

The village is threatening legal action against the town for failure to pay $78,644.71 owed for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Boyle said the village will shut off fire and emergency response to the town (including the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District) if the bill isn’t paid by Nov. 30 – action that Downing said could be supported by the OVFD.

Martin said the town wants to renegotiate the longstanding agreement, and sent the village a check for half of that amount in an attempt to sit down and come up with a new three-year pact that removes charges to the town for capital expenses, such as trucks and equipment.

“The town would like a three-year agreement and a service contract only,” Martin wrote. “When we say service contract, we mean that the capital portion not be included as that is owned by the village.”

When asked if the town considered paying the full amount owed prior to renegotiation, Martin responded, “We have done this in the past and have gotten nowhere.”

“Once the village gets their money, they do not contact us again until it is time to discuss the fire budget again the next year,” he said. “We have asked for five years to work this out and they continue to ignore our request.”

He said the town board favors a service agreement for fire protection, similar to the one it has with the village for snowplowing.

Boyle’s response made it clear that he doesn’t believe that is fair.

“That’s ludicrous to me,” he said, reiterating that all necessary vehicles are dispatched and equipment used when firefighters respond to town emergencies.

The mayor, however, did say he was encouraged by the chance to express the village’s stance in mediation.

“There are issues to iron out, for sure,” he said. “I hope there’s a sense of give-and-take in the discussions, and not just demands.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s a no-win situation at this point. We’re going to have to come to some kind of compromise. Both parties deserve a contract that supports the fire department but also is fiscally conservative and responsible.”

Previously: Oakfield fire protection dispute update: Village wants full payment before negotiating; Town has sent half

Previously: O-A school superintendent hoping for quick resolution to village, town fire protection squabble

October 14, 2021 - 10:12am

Although Village of Oakfield and Town of Oakfield governmental leaders are keeping their constituents informed of the status of their dispute over fire protection payments, they have yet to navigate a path to the negotiating table.

And, if judging by the latest information flyer that was hand-delivered to village residents last week, the village board has drawn a line in the sand before any talks will take place:

  • The Town pays the entire amount due to the Village for Fire Protection Services provided last year.
  • The Town signs the contract for 2021-2022 fire services (current year) or a multi-year agreement.
  • All parties jointly explore options to ensure this disagreement and withholding of payment does not happen again.

The village board claims the town owes $78,644.71 for fire protection services during the 2020-21 fiscal year, and is asking for full payment by Nov. 30 or Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department personnel will not be dispatched to fires or emergencies in the town, including the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District.

Other than an exchange of bulletins and website postings, Village Mayor David Boyle and Town Supervisor Matt Martin said there has been no verbal communication between the two boards.

The village owns fire trucks and equipment, and runs the fire service through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the building on Albert Street.

Contacted on Wednesday, Martin pointed to information on the town website that spells out the town’s stance.

According to its Statement on Fire Agreement, dated Oct. 11, the town would like to see:

  • A three-year contract.
  • A service contract only – not to include capital -- because the village owns all fire equipment.

The town’s statement also indicates that its clerk sent a check for $39,322.36 – half of the above amount – to the village, but it has not been cashed.

Both Boyle and Martin have said the matter is in the hands of their attorneys, but the town’s latest statement indicates it has yet to be served with any legal action.

On Wednesday, Boyle said he was waiting for a return call from the village attorney.

The municipalities’ latest communications are as follows:

THE VILLAGE’S STANCE (as of Oct. 4)

1.  The Town Supervisor and Board is refusing to pay for the Fire Protection Services provided for June 1st, 2020 through May 31st, 2021, this is despite the (fact that the) Town’s 2021 tax bill to Town residents included a charge for fire protection based on the 2020/2021 Fire Protection Contract.  This money was collected as Town taxes in January of 2021.  The Town is responsible for creating the situation we are involved with at this time.

2.  The Town Supervisor has repeatedly stated that there is not a signed contract and the Town does not need to pay for services---despite the fact that the Town accepted fire protection services throughout the contract term while never indicating that the services were not wanted or needed.

3.  The contract between the Village, Fire Department, and Town has been an annual agreement for many years. This included an understanding between the Village and Town for payment of the contract after the Town collected its taxes (6 months after the contract begins).  The Town has collected the money to pay the contract but refuses to abide by law which says it must provide fire protection and payout the money collected for this purpose.

4.  Village residents pay double the tax rate for fire protection compared to Town residents.  The current rate for Village taxpayers is $1.62 per thousand of assessed value.  Why should the Village residents be forced to pay more?  Also, why is the Town so insistent that the Village Taxpayers take over more of the Town’s obligation?  Any shifting of cost to Village Taxpayers is very burdensome to them.

5.  Representatives from the Village (one of which is a fireman), Fire Department, and Town met as a committee to set the fire budget.  It is disappointing and possibly illegal that the Town Supervisor and Board is withholding payment to the Village for the 2020-2021 contract in order to dictate what funds they will pay going forward.  Keep in mind fire protection services to the Town continued to be provided over this time period, and that all structure fires occurred in the Town- not the Village.  In fact, of 10 structure fires, all were in the town. 

6.  Legally, a municipality cannot provide a free service.  The Town has refused to sign a contract for the 2020-2021 term and for 2021-2022 fire protection.  The Village cannot continue to provide a service with no indication that it will be paid for the services already provided, nor for the services going forward.

7.  Because of the Town’s refusal to pay for Fire Protection for over 15 months, the Village has communicated that fire services provided to the Town will cease on November 30th, 2021 unless payment for the 2020-2021 contract is made and a signed agreement for 2021-2022 is agreed upon by all parties.

THE TOWN’S STANCE (as of Oct. 11)

At this time, the Town has not been served with any legal action.

For five years, the Town of Oakfield has been trying to work with the Village of Oakfield to come to a fair and equitable Fire Agreement.

The Town Board disagrees with the content of the letters being circulated (by the Village Board), including the $1.62 being allocated to Fire Protection to the Village residents. The total taxable value of the Village is $52,040,355 (for bills sent out in June 2021).

Based on the Mayor’s statement that $1.62 of the village rate is for fire, they raised $84,305.38 for Fire Service within the village alone.

The Village Budget for 2021-22 for Fire is $95,000. Of that $95K, $10,320 is earmarked to go into a truck reserve. If you take that out of the $95K, you are left with $84,680 for a total operating budget. So, 58 percent (Town) is $49,126.

So, if the Village collected $84,680 and the Town owes them $49,126, then the total budget would be $133,806. What are they doing with the other $39K (actually $38,806) they collected if they did in fact collect it?

This should make the Village fire tax rate 0.89 cents per $1,000 (assessed value).

We also disagree with there being 10 structure fires within the Town of Oakfield. When a fire happens within our boundaries, both the Assessor and Code Enforcement Officer is contacted. Neither have been contacted for structure fires with(in) the Town.

Finally, in an attempt to sit at the table with the Village and negotiate an agreement, the Town sent the Village a check for $39,322.36 (half of the $78,644.71 the Town collected). The Village still has the check, refuses to cash it and will not entertain a discussion.

October 4, 2021 - 4:14pm

As would be expected, the superintendent of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District is keeping a close eye on the fire protection dispute between the Village and Town of Oakfield.

“I’m hesitant to throw the District into the mix of this debate. However, I am very concerned about the suggestion of not responding to an emergency call here if it was on our campus,” John Fisgus said today in response to an email from The Batavian.

As reported as part of an update to a story on Sept. 28, Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, indicated that the fire company has been in contact with its attorney regarding the situation.

Downing said that if the disagreement over money that Village Mayor David Boyle said is owed by the town isn’t settled by a Nov. 30 deadline, the fire department, “by written order of the mayor or the board of trustees of the Village of Oakfield, we will not be able to respond into the town, which includes the elementary and the high school.”

Contacted today by telephone, Boyle said he has not heard recently from anyone representing the Town of Oakfield – neither Supervisor Matt Martin or the town’s attorney. Martin has indicated that the matter has been turned over to the town’s lawyer.

Previously, Boyle said the village is suing the town in an attempt to secure $78,648 that was charged to the town for fire protection provided by the village during the 2020-21 fiscal year. The village also said it would withhold fire protection from the town if the bill isn’t paid by Nov. 30.

The village owns fire trucks and equipment, and runs the fire service through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the building on Albert Street, Boyle said.

Fisgus concluded his brief statement with words that likely mirror what Oakfield village and town residents are thinking:

“I hope there is a resolution soon and both the town and village can come to an agreement,” he said.

Previously: Village of Oakfield threatens lawsuit, withholding fire protection over payment dispute with Town of Oakfield

September 28, 2021 - 11:21am

firetruck.png

Update: 9:00 p.m., Sept. 28

Sean Downing, chief of the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, left a phone message stating that he is "hopeful that both parties can come and resolve their differences before the November 30th deadline."

"If not, then by written order of the mayor or the board of trustees of the Village of Oakfield, we will not be able to respond into the town, which includes the elementary and the high school -- and that is per consulting with our attorney, Mark Butler."

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Update: 5:50 p.m., Sept. 28

Oakfield Town Supervisor Matt Martin called back to The Batavian, but didn't not want to elaborate other to say that the matter is in the hands of the town's attorney.

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The Village of Oakfield is preparing to take legal action against the Town of Oakfield – as well as threatening to withhold fire protection – if the town does not pay the nearly $80,000 it owes to the village as directed by a longstanding joint municipal agreement for such services.

That’s the message conveyed by Village Mayor David Boyle during an interview on Monday with The Batavian.

Boyle said a letter articulating the village’s position is being included in residents’ water/sewer bills this week.

The mayor said the dispute centers upon the town’s refusal to pay $78,648 owed to the village for the 2020-21 fiscal year ending May 31.

Contending that the town is “holding the village hostage” in hope of renegotiating the shared services arrangement, Boyle said the village board has instructed its attorney to file a lawsuit to recover the 2020-21 payment. He also said the town has yet to pay for the first three months of the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The letter, which also is signed by Deputy Mayor John Igoe and Trustees Michael Cianfrini, Michele Graham and John Mullen, states, in part:

“The Village Board is united in recognizing that the village cannot burden village residents and businesses with providing fire protection to the town without reimbursement. Therefore, the board has directed a letter be sent to the Town stating that effective Nov. 30, 2021, the Village will no longer be able to provide fire protection to the Town with the exception of the Oakfield-Alabama Central School.”

Boyle said the village owns fire trucks and equipment, and runs the fire service through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the building on Albert Street.

“The town buys services (coverage) from us,” he said. “For years and years, we’ve had an agreement with the town about purchasing fire protection from the village. For as long as I remember, there have been contracts in place that basically are the same structure year after year after year.”

The current structure has the village paying 42 percent of the cost and the town paying 58 percent. Boyle said that the town is looking for a 50/50 split.

While that may seem equitable on paper, Boyle said, when broken down by assessed valuation, village residents pay $1.62 per $1,000 of assessed value in taxes while the town residents pay 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in taxes.

“Our village residents have to work twice as hard to pay their bill, yet the town is saying we don’t find what you’re charging acceptable and we want to move some of that cost over to the village,” Boyle said. “They’ve held back the payment to force us to make an agreement that we don’t believe we can do in the best interest of the village residents and providing a sustainable fire service.”

Per the 2020 census, the Town of Oakfield has 3,145 residents, with 1,812 of those people residing in the village.

Boyle said the fire department budget is around $175,000 including Workers’ Compensation premiums that the town traditionally has paid and liability insurance that the village traditionally has paid. The fire protection agreement is based on $135,600, with the village responsible for $56,952.

He also said this hasn’t been an issue in the past.

“Two years ago, committees got together for budgeting the fire department – looking at the long range plan and controlling costs as much as we could while also being able to sustain it over the years,” he said.

Boyle said both municipalities are required by law to provide fire protection to its businesses and its residences.

“They (the town) knew what their bill was going to be and they’ve gone out and collected tax money for that, but they haven’t signed a contract for the fiscal year that passed, even though they have collected money from the taxpayers,” he advised. “It’s escalated as it has gone on the past 15 months, but what they are saying is that it’s too expensive and they have to drive their costs down.”

He did say that there is no signed contract for 2020-21.

As far as legal action, Boyle said one of the trustees contacted the state Comptroller’s office, and the village board feels good about its chances of winning a lawsuit.

“We feel the town knew what the bill was going to be, they collected taxes on it and we provided a service in good faith. Plus, they never contacted us, saying we shouldn’t be doing that because we don’t have a contract. We’re confident that we would prevail in a lawsuit because of those reasons.”

Boyle mentioned that five fire calls over the past year or so have been structure fires in the town and, as required, the village fire department volunteers responded.

A call this morning seeking comment from Oakfield Fire Chief Sean Downing has yet to be returned.

Oakfield Town Supervisor Matt Martin has yet to respond to email and phone requests for comment.

Meeting minutes from the June 8th Town Board meeting indicate the agreement with the village is “not a contract, but a service agreement” and that a counteroffer to the village has been proposed:

“For years, but recently the past few months Supervisor Martin and Councilperson (Carol) Glor have been trying to negotiate with the Village a service contract that is equal. Currently, the Town pays 58% of the fire budget. Supervisor Martin requested that the number become a 50/50 split over a three year period, which the Mayor and Village Board refuse to entertain.

At this time the Town has not paid the village for the last village budget year. Supervisor Martin says this is not a contract it is a service agreement and should be treated as such. A proposal to the Village of $63,000.00 per year for three years on a service contract appears to be rejected as there has not been any communication from the Mayor.”

Boyle, after hearing what was communicated, said, “We’ve always been willing to talk with the town, maybe not in their time frame.”

“I got the sense that they’re not paying the contract and using that as hostage money. We want to treat it as two matters: They clear up what they owe us and then we’ll talk about going forward. We provided a service to them in good faith, so we believe that they’re being disingenuous.”

June 16, 2021 - 10:32am

luna.jpgA representative of the company looking to build the largest solar project ever in New York State says that building relationships with Town of Elba and Oakfield officials and residents are the keys to finding a path to a finished product that benefits everyone.

Speaking by telephone from his Chicago office last week, Harrison Luna (photo at right), development manager for Hecate (pronounced Heck-A-Tee) Energy, said things are progressing smoothly more than a year after the solar company announced its intention to place a 500-megawatt solar farm on what is now 2,452 acres of farmland in the north portion of the adjoining towns.

On June 3, Hecate Energy filed an application with the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to construct the solar system, which Luna said represents a $500 million-plus investment that will create more than 500 construction jobs – and about 12 permanent full-time jobs -- and will be capable of supplying 920,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity per year.

Luna said he has been impressed with the feedback from governmental leaders in both towns, who have interacted with him through three open houses and numerous other meetings – virtually and in person. He said that he places a high priority on understanding the views and concerns of the local citizens.

“Just from my perspective, the only way these projects really work is when they come with a respect of the communities they deal with – by building relationships in the community,” he said. “You can’t do that without having a conversation, early and often. That’s how we’ve been doing it the whole time.”

COMMUNICATION LINES ARE OPEN

Luna said he has been in constant contact with town officials, landowners and neighbors, noting that there have been three virtual open houses with hundreds of people participating.

He also holds Zoom calls outside of his office hours for people to speak to him, and has set up a dedicated phone number and email address for people to call with questions or concerns. He said he returns those calls and emails as soon as possible.

A press release from Hecate Energy included comments from the Oakfield and Elba town supervisors, with both Matt Martin and Donna Hynes, respectively, giving the company high marks for keeping them informed “every step of the way” and offering a project that will result in significant financial benefits to both municipalities.

When contacted by The Batavian, Martin said that in his town, things are progressing without controversy.

“I had one resident ask about if the town wanted it or didn’t want it and I said, basically, that we have no choice,” he said. “The state dictates what they do with the solar panels; the state is running the show, not us.”

Martin acknowledged that the economic benefits will be significant – likely in the millions for both towns, the Oakfield and Elba school districts and other taxing entities – but said those, too, “are beyond our control.”

“We can publish what those benefits are but I don’t think they’ve got those numbers outlined yet,” he said. “As things progress, we’ll have some more information. Nothing like this moves really fast.”

A call to Hynes has not been returned.

NEW STATE AGENCY CONTROLS THE CLOCK

As far as the timetable is concerned, Luna said that ORES -- the state agency that has replaced the Article 10 permitting process for large-scale renewable projects -- has 60 days to determine whether Hecate Energy’s application is complete. The Cider Solar Farm is the first application submitted under ORES.

“They are set up sort of as a one-stop shop and a point of contact for everybody to work through the permitting items together,” Luna said. “I think the difference there is that in Article 10, interaction with agencies was hectic – you would talk to individual agencies – while here it’s more of a clearinghouse for all of those interactions with the state.”

Once ORES deems the application is complete, there’s a one-year clock it has to work through the various items in order to issue or deny a permit, Luna said. It could stretch beyond that (or move faster) depending upon the application checking all of the boxes.

Luna said once the permit is received, the company would be ready to start construction, hopefully by next summer. Construction is expected to take 18 months.

He said he projects that about 500 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during construction and around a dozen permanent jobs afterward.

“Once it is built, it is relatively low maintenance,” he said, adding that workers will be paid prevailing wage and “that you would expect a concentrated labor force of local residents.”

THIRTY-ONE LANDOWNING ENTITIES

What began as a 4,000-acre proposition has decreased to 2,452 acres, and that’s all by design, Luna said.

Currently, 31 landowning entities (controlling 67 parcels) have options to lease their land to Hecate Energy, with a few of them being different entities controlled by the same family.

The major landowners are Call Farms Inc., with more than 1,000 acres, along with Norton Farms (approximately 600 acres), Offhaus Farms Inc. (approximately 500 acres), and Eugene Bezon (approximately 300 acres).

Others with around 100 acres are Big O Realty LLC; CY Properties; Gene H. Sharp; David Shuknecht; and Lynn Shuknecht.

CLICK HERE for a complete list of landowners of record. Note that the acreage totals may have changed due to the “honing” process.

“The way that works is originally we went and sought options and lease agreements for 4,000 acres of land,” Luna said. “The reason we start that big is to give us enough room to move with the desires of the community and hone that project to the best possible version it could be. Over time, as we’ve listened to the community on certain things – how far it sets back from the road and various other concerns – we start pulling back and honing it to something much smaller.”

He called it a “useful exercise” -- one that considers protected wetlands and endangered species.

In the case of the Cider Solar Farm, less than 2/10ths of an acre of state-regulated wetlands has been permanently impacted, he said.

NAAS: PROPERTY OWNERS HAVE A CHOICE

genesee_bruce_nass_1.jpgBruce Naas (photo at right), president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, has signed an option to lease 60 acres of land on Naas Farms LLC on Lockport Road in Oakfield for the solar project.

“My opinion has always been, if you own the property, it’s not like I am going to tell somebody else what do to with it,” Naas said. “If it is something that benefits you and your family in the long-term plan, then it’s something … it’s a decision that you have to make.”

Naas said the land that he is leasing is a small portion of the family farm, which grows vegetables, soybeans, corn and wheat.

“We here at our farm, elected to put the poorer ground into solar. It would not generate the income that we have been offered by the solar company – growing row crops. So, for us, it’s strictly a business decision.”

He said he hopes that solar works out in the long run.

“My biggest fear with solar is that it is something I would assume as time goes on would become more efficient … I hope as we move forward, that these things don’t become obsolete before their lifespan,” he said. “I guess from the sounds of it, it is an objective that the governor and political leaders want us to meet, and either you say ‘Yes’ or the train passes you by.”

Naas mentioned the economic advantages for the community, but added that his “biggest concern was that I have to look it at for the rest of my career.”

The farm bureau has no official position on solar, Naas said, reiterating his stance that it is the property owners’ choice “unless it directly affects someone else.”

A call to Call Farms for comment from one of the owners was not returned.

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN THE PIPELINE

Just as the public has seen with the Excelsior Energy Project in the Town of Byron, where the taxing jurisdictions stand to gain millions over the 20-year term of the agreement, the towns of Elba and Oakfield, their school districts, special fire districts, Genesee County and the Haxton Memorial Library will reap financial rewards.

The landowners receive direct compensation through their lease agreements (which generally are believed to pay between $500 and $2,000 per acre per year).

“Our goal is to try to make sure everyone benefits; everyone in the community as well as the company as well as the State of New York as well as landowners,” Luna said. “We want it to be positive for everybody involved.”

Towns and other interested parties also have access to $500,000 in intervener funds – money made available to help towns and groups/individuals evaluate the impact of the project.

“Local people have a voice in this and they will coordinate with ORES as it makes funding available over the next two month to the towns and other interveners,” Luna said. “The towns can use that to get their heads around what exactly is going on. Towns request the amount they need or want, ORES takes a look at every intervener funding request and allocates that funding to the towns and other pertinent entities – with the towns having first place in line.”

Luna did not speak to whether Hecate Energy would be applying for tax incentives or payment in lieu of taxes through the Genesee County Economic Development Center, stating that the process has yet to reach that stage.

DISCOUNT ON CONSUMERS’ ELECTRIC BILLS

He did point out that every resident of Elba and Oakfield will receive a direct utility bill reduction in connection with the project.

“We will send money to the utility that they must take off people’s monthly utility bills … for the first 10 years,” he said. “We pay a fixed amount per year to be distributed to town residents. It will probably about $100 per year for each resident, but that will be determined.”

Luna, responding to a question about the flow of electricity from the system, said power generated on the grid flows to the nearest user of electricity.

“It will be used as close to as it is generated as there is demand for it,” he said, adding that the system would produce enough electricity to power all of Genesee County “and then a little bit more.”

Hecate Energy has entered into a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) contract with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Luna said.

“We sell environmental benefits of the project, which are tracked using these objects called RECs,” he said. “We’ll sell those under contract to the state, or NYSERDA, where they get to retire them and take credit for the ‘green’ goals that the state has – which are quite ambitious.”

He said his company seeks to demonstrate that it is meeting the state’s goals.

“It’s not a contract to sell the power. We’re not selling power; we’re capacity to the state,” he added. “We can sell the power under this contract to the open market so that any user of electricity that is eligible to buy electricity, we can sell it flexibly.”

TORREY MARSHALL: WE CHOOSE TO FARM

maureen-torrey_2.jpgLuna said he has encountered no organized opposition – “I’m knocking on wood as I’m saying that,” he noted – and attributes that to the level of interaction thus far.

“I think it’s a real difference when you’re generally putting these communities first in your mind when you doing anything. I think people can tell. I think it’s really important if people really care about communities when they do these things as it really makes everything a lot better,” he said.

While that may be true, not everyone is thrilled that solar has become such a hot commodity at the expense of farming.

Maureen Torrey Marshall (photo at right) of Torrey Farms, a major agricultural enterprise in Elba and surrounding towns, said she thinks “it’s sad that solar panels are the most viable crop that farmers can grow.”

“Well, you can’t fault anybody because they can’t get that type of return by growing any crops, but it all goes back to New York State,” she said. “I’m on the (Elba) town board and we’re going to try to get as much (money) as we can, but you can’t fault anybody. The town and the school need to benefit as much as they can from this.”

She said that solar is going to change the look of the community – and it’s not about to stop in Elba and Oakfield.

“That is what is going to happen down in the valley along (Interstate) 390, near Mount Morris – all that beautiful farmland in that area. That’s all going to be solar,” she said. “New York has placed a priority on green energy and it has just steamrolled.”

Torrey Marshall said her operation is not leasing land to the project.

“You get letters – these companies are just coming out of the woodwork. To be honest, all of Route 98 going to the Thruway could be solar panels,” she said. “It’s our choice and our choice is to farm.

“Elba has survived on agriculture ever since it was founded. Then you have people saying that this is so great. It’s sad that this is the best viable use for your land right now.”

ZUBER: TAKING FOOD OUT OF OUR MOUTHS

Eric Zuber, of Byron, part of the organized opposition to the Excelsior Energy Project, said he owns farmland on the fringes of the Cider Solar Farm but is not signed up to lease any land.

“The quality of ground they are taking in that one is not the quality of the ground here. It’s productive soil but it isn’t the soil that is being taken for the project in Byron,” he said. “Still, I think all of these projects on farmland are stupid. I think, if I had the right type of guys come in here, they could prove that it will create more carbon than it’s going to prevent.”

Hecate Energy contends that the Elba/Oakfield solar system is projected to offset more than 420,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking over 92,000 average cars off the road annually.

Zuber said he is on board with smaller solar farms on side yards or on roofs of homes, “but when they start doing these big projects, they’re taking the food out of people’s mouths.”

“Go to the grocery store and buy food. What has it done in the last six months? You need another $50 in your pocket to buy your groceries,” he said. “All they’re doing is making people hungrier and making the poor people poorer.”

THE BEST APPLE CIDER IS HERE

Luna acknowledged that not everyone is on board with solar panels along country roads.

“There are always some people who aren’t really excited, which is natural for a project of this scale,” he said. “What we do in that case, which again I think is really positive, is try to interact directly with those people and have one-on-one conversations – because sometimes we can help. If they’re concerned that they will be looking at panels all day, we can put visual screening there that mitigates that visual impact. That can make people feel more comfortable in many cases.”

He said Hecate Energy is committed to community involvement and will be looking at opportunities as the project progresses.

The solar company is hosting a fire training for first responders in Elba and Oakfield next Monday night (June 21) at the Elba Firemen’s Recreation Hall in the village. Luna said it will be a comprehensive training in the event of solar fires or emergency situations in various applications – not just large-scale, ground-mounted systems.

So, as indicated, the clock is ticking on the Cider Solar Farm, a unique name for the project that came into Luna’s mind as he drank a glass of local apple cider.

“Funny enough, the first time I came up to town – I’m not exactly sure where it was – I was on the road looking for land that was suitable and getting prepared for meetings with landowners when I bought some apple cider at some place … and I said that this is the best cider I ever had,” he said. “I’m from Tennessee. I don’t know if it’s something about the climate or something else, but maybe our apples aren’t quite as good. But I really enjoyed the cider.”

Hence the name, Cider Solar Farm.

June 11, 2021 - 1:51pm

The City of Batavia could be getting a third Tim Hortons.

A spokesman for the Quicklee’s convenience store chain Thursday night said the family-owned, Avon-based company is talking with Tim Hortons’ representatives about operating a drive-thru restaurant at the site of the former Bob Evans Restaurant at 204 Oak St. (Route 98).

Louis Terragnoli, director of real estate and development for Quicklee’s, was on the Zoom call of the meeting of the Genesee County Planning Board, which approved a site plan and area variances for a 2,771-square-foot convenience store with 1,000-square-foot drive-thru and a four-pump fuel station.

“We’re in negotiations with Tim Hortons right now and let’s keep our fingers crossed that it keeps going the right way,” Terragnoli said, adding that the company will be completely remodeling the interior and exterior of the building.

Quicklee’s is required to obtain variances since the service station is 165 feet from a church (less than the minimum 500 feet) and the proposed number of parking spaces is 40 (less than the minimum 68).

Terragnoli said he spoke with the Rev. Tom Tharp at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 190 Oak St., and said the pastor was in favor of the project.

As far as parking spaces, Terragnoli said the 40 spots in Quicklee’s plan are adequate.

“From a business perspective, we are overparked. Forty is fine. Sixty-eight is something we don’t have at any location,” he said. “There won’t be any congestion … we’ll have plenty of spots. We will be accessing the site from Noonan Drive. We have a report from the DOT (Department of Transportation) that says that is the best way to do it.”

He also said the company will add a landscaping buffer along the southern part of the property facing Noonan Drive.

“We want to shield the dispensers as much as we can from the church property, so we want to do the right thing for our neighbor,” he said.

Terragnoli added that they will install two handicap accessible curb cuts at the corner and put in a sidewalk “so pedestrians can safely ingress and egress from our site” and dumpsters will be relocated away from the Noonan Drive entrance area for safety purposes.

The Batavia location will be Quicklee’s 24th and could be open by early fall.

Planners recommended approval of the site plan and area variances. The referral now will go before the City Planning & Development Committee at its meeting on Tuesday and then to the City Zoning Board of Appeals.

In other action, the planning board recommended approval of:

  • A site plan for a 107,138-square-foot addition on the southwest corner of the existing plant for warehousing and manufacturing at Liberty Pumps, 7000 Apple Tree Ave., Bergen. Modifications include a stormwater prevention plan and archaeological impact study.

The project also will include a new entrance and exit from Route 19.

  • Zoning text amendments from the Oakfield Town Board for the entire Town of Oakfield to allow major solar collection systems to the Land Conservation (LC) and Agricultural-Residential (AR) Districts and to add public and private utilities to the LC District.

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said the town wants to amend the zoning to help advance the Cider Solar Farm project of Hecate Energy – a 500-megawatt system being developed under the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting.

“As a state-sited project, they don’t necessarily need to follow the local zoning process, but it does make it easier for the company because they won’t have to go in front of a judge and argue why they can override the municipal zoning,” Oltramari said. “This makes it a little more friendly to that project.”

  • A special use permit for Chad Downs, 1300 McVean Road, Darien, to place a pest control business in his home, which sits in a Low Density Residential (LDR) District.

The planning department recommends approval with the modification that the storage and disposal of herbicides, pesticides, and other hazardous materials must be conducted in accordance with applicable State and Federal regulations.

June 9, 2021 - 8:23pm

plug.jpg

The Genesee County Planning Department is recommending approval of a site plan review submitted by Plug Power Inc., the Latham-based company specializing in the development of hydrogen fuel cells systems for applications such as heavy-duty freight and forklifts.

The referral is one of 15 on the agenda of the county planning board’s meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday via Zoom videoconferencing.

According to information provided to the planning department, the site plan to place the green hydrogen facility at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park includes three structures – an 8,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building, a 40,000-square-foot electrolyzer building and a 68,000-square-foot compressor building.

STAMP, located on Crosby Road in the Town of Alabama, is designated as a Technology (T-1) District.

Additional documentation indicates the Genesee County Economic Development Center, which owns STAMP, is in the final stages of closing the sale of 29.884 acres to be allocated to the Plug Power venture, which is being called Gateway Project.

The full environmental assessment form filled out by Plug Power reveals that construction will take place in two phases, with phase one to commence in March 2022 and phase 2 to be completed in June 2023.

It is projected that the company will use 280,000 gallons of water per day, with expected additional capacity from the construction of two new water lines. Company officials state that 70,500 gallons of wastewater will be generated each day. The grounds also will feature a stormwater management facility.

Approximately 16 tanker trucks will come to the facility each day on a reconstructed Crosby Road to provide a new access path. Construction is expected to take place from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Once complete, it will be a 24-hour operation.

Last Thursday, Genesee County Economic Development Center directors approved approximately $2.8 million in sales tax incentives related to the construction of the electrical substation.

The GCEDC reported that Plug Power is investing $232 million the company to build the facility, which is estimated to create 68 full-time jobs.

The company also is investing $55 million toward the construction a substation that will enable 100-percent renewable, reliable electricity at less than $0.035/kwh to future tenants in partnership with the New York Power Authority and National Grid.

Other referrals of note:

  • Special use permit, area variance and site plan review for a Quicklee’s convenience store and four-pump fuel station island at the former Bob Evans Restaurant location in a Commercial (C-2) District at 204 Oak St. (Route 98) in the City of Batavia.

The area variance is necessary because the service station is 165 feet from a church (less than the minimum 500 feet) and the proposed number of parking spaces is 40 (less than the minimum 68).

Patricia Bittar, director of land development projects at WM Schutt Associates, filed the application, stating that the proposed project will take up 2,771 square feet for the convenience store and 1,000 square feet for a drive-thru restaurant.

The planning department recommends approval. The applicant also will have to go in front of the City Planning & Development Committee and Zoning Board of Appeals.

  • Site plan review for a 107,138-square-foot addition for warehousing and manufacturing to Liberty Pumps, 7000 Apple Tree Ave., Bergen

The planning department recommends approval with modifications pertaining to stormwater prevention and archaeological impact documentation.

  • As previously reported on The Batavian, a zoning map change request from the Le Roy Town Board to rezone seven parcels from Residential (R-2) to Light Industrial (I-2) District to expand the GCEDC-owned Le Roy Food & Tech Park on Route 19 ad Randall Road in the Town of Le Roy.

This action could open the door for Great Lakes Cheese of Hiram, Ohio, to build a $500 million processing plant at the site.

The planning department recommends approval since the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the Town of Le Roy in 2017 identifies this area in its Future Land Use Plan as Agriculture and adjacent to Industrial.

  • Zoning text amendments from the Oakfield Town Board for the entire Town of Oakfield to allow major solar collection systems to the Land Conservation (LC) and Agricultural-Residential (AR) Districts and to add public and private utilities to the LC District.

The towns of Oakfield and Elba are gearing up for the proposed construction of a 500-megawatt solar farm by Hecate Energy, which today announced that is has filed an application with the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting.

If approved and constructed, the Cider Solar Farm would be the largest solar project ever built in New York State.

Hecate Energy’s press release indicated that the $500 million private infrastructure investment is expected to create moe than 500 construction jobs and will be capable of supplying 920,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year – enough to power more than 120,000 average New York households.

The planning department is recommending approval.

  • A special use permit for Chad Downs, 1300 McVean Road, Darien, to place a pest control business in his home, which sits in a Low Density Residential (LDR) District.

The planning department recommends approval with the modification that the storage and disposal of herbicides, pesticides and other hazardous materials must be conducted in accordance with applicable State and Federal regulations.

Architect's rendering at top: 3D view of the Plug Power facility to go at WNY STAMP. The rectangle building at the front is the compressor building and the long building behind it is the electrolyzer building. The operations and maintenance building is the smaller structure at right.

June 3, 2020 - 9:29pm

chad_klotzbach_.jpgChad Klotzbach of Basom has been selected to replace John Hilchey as the District No. 1 representative (Alabama and Oakfield) on the Genesee County Legislature.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon unanimously approved the appointment pursuant to the county’s Local Law No. 1, 1967. The term takes effect on June 10 – when Klotzbach is expected to be sworn in at a meeting of the full legislature – and runs through Dec. 31.

Klotzbach was endorsed by both the Town of Alabama and Oakfield Republican committees at meetings last month.

 “I’ve been interested in this type of service for a while after learning about the inner workings (of government) through my involvement with the (Town of Alabama) planning board and STAMP (Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) in the Town of Alabama,” Klotzbach said.

A 2006 Oakfield-Alabama Central School graduate, Klotzbach is managing partner of Alleghany Farm Services in Basom, a family business started by his father, Drew, in the early 1980s. The company specializes in commercial construction site work and agricultural drainage across New York State.

Klotzbach earned his civil engineering degree from Clarkson University in Potsdam, where he was a competitive swimmer, before obtaining a master in business administration degree from Canisius College in Buffalo.

Currently, he is a member of the Town of Alabama Planning Board that is in the middle of a zoning update.

Asked to introduce himself at the Zoom meeting, Klotzbach, 31, said he interacts with residents of the district on a regular basis through his business and the planning board.

“I’ve done a lot of surveys and chatting with people in the town, so I have a pretty good status of what is going on in the town at the moment, what the forward thoughts are and where people want to see it going,” he said.

Klotzbach also said he enjoys working with and encouraging young entrepreneurs in the area.

“Just as it’s super important to bring in new businesses to the county, I also think it’s a better idea to foster and kind of encourage the students that we have – the younger people – to build their businesses and mentor them.”

The vacancy on the board was created when Hilchey resigned from the position on May 14, citing “risks of possible negative impact upon his employer.”

The District No. 1 seat will be up for election in November, which gives Klotzbach and any others interested in serving on the legislature, an opportunity to get on the ballot.

November's victor would serve in 2021 and then -- provided that he or she wishes to continue -- would run again in November 2021 when that seat goes for a four-year term.

In other action, the committee:

-- Approved an agreement between the county and Prospect Hill Consulting LLC of Buffalo to coordinate a Comprehensive Planning Process and create a County Recreation plan.

The project is designed to foster interagency cooperation and a smooth flow of information, starting with the vision of community residents about land use and developing into a policy that can be monitored by the legislature, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said.

Oltramari said the $100,000 project will be funded by a $40,000 award the county received in 2019, along with a $45,000 cash match from a previously established county project to create the County Recreation Plan and a $15,000 in-kind contribution.

Legislator Chair Rochelle Stein said she is excited about the prospects of working with Prospect Hill Consulting, which she said will “provide a youthful look at the county and our natural resources.”

“I can not wait for them to meet with our leadership partners – the towns, villages and city – to bring us into 2050,” she said. “It’s going to be a tremendous task, but the plan will make a big difference in Genesee County.”

-- Approved a retail lease agreement between the Town of Bergen and the Monroe County Water Authority for the operation and maintenance of the town’s Water Improvement Benefit Area No. 1.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said authorization by the legislature is required in agreements such as this one, adding that this will enable the town to have the “paperwork to get their district going.”

Residents using water in the new benefit area are subject to the full surcharge to the County Water Fund per a water supply agreement with the Town of Bergen dated June 13, 2018, Hens said.

-- Approved a 2.3 percent raise for Jay Lazarony, the GLOW Workforce Development Board manager, retroactive to April 1. The $1,508 increase bumps his salary to $66,271 and is covered by the GLOW WDB. County Manager Jay Gsell said that no county funds have ever been allocated to the organization.

-- Commended Legislative Clerk Pamela LaGrou following a review of the administrative office.

“We’re extremely pleased to have you sitting in that seat (at the Old Courthouse) and minding the fort for us,” Stein said.

March 23, 2020 - 4:10pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, town of batavia, Town of Darien, Town of Oakfield.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post is urging everyone to abide by “social distancing” mandates as he takes the necessary steps to continue providing services to residents while protecting the health of town employees.

“In order for us to get through this (COVID-19 pandemic), we continue to insist that people separate and practice social distancing,” Post said today while drafting a policy that, he says, “will maintain the status quo for the duration” of this situation.

(See press release below.)

Post said that Town offices will be closed to the public and that town employees will work from home to the extent that is practical. He said that Town Clerk Teressa Morasco will be available by telephone or email.

“Essentially, our town is well prepared for this event as we have had remote work stations and flex time for several years,” Post said. “It is not a leap to have staff work from home.”

He said he has reduced “in-house” staff to a minimum – no more than four employees in the building at any one time – and those on duty at Town Hall will work apart from each other as mandated by federal and state officials.

Post also said that the Town Court is closed with justices “on standby in the event of a significant case.” He also noted that engineering, highway and water/sewer employees are on duty and traveling in separate vehicles.

“We can take a sense of comfort in knowing that our day-to-day operations continue without any reduction, except for face-to-face meetings,” Post said, noting that internet and telephone options are being offered.

Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. said essential services such as picking up of debris and tree cutting by the highway department continue and that the Town Board is in the process of setting up governmental meetings on the internet.

“We don’t want the public to be shut out,” he said.

Ferry said he likely was speaking for all other Genesee County towns and villages when he said his primary concern was supporting the businesses in Darien while also making sure to protect the public’s health.

“Our biggest struggle is hoping that our town’s businesses will come out of this and continue to operate,” he said. “Plus, we hope that someone is keeping an eye on the welfare and unemployment situations.”

He said he believes that the decisions coming out of Albany, namely Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings, are good ones and that most people are adhering to the mandates.

While all towns and villages have adopted the social distancing norms and have suspended face-to-face interactions, the Town of Oakfield also has enlisted a group of volunteers who will pick up and deliver food and household items to elderly and disabled town and village residents.

Volunteers are instructed to deliver the goods to the door and collect payment with minimal contact.

Those wishing to utilize this service are asked to call the Oakfield Town office at 948-5835, ext. 101, and leave a message if no one answers. A volunteer will return the call.

Town and village residents are urged to go to their municipality's website for updated information.

August 6, 2013 - 4:00pm
Event Date and Time: 
September 1, 2013 - 12:00pm to September 2, 2013 - 6:00pm

Oakfield Labor Days Sunday, September 1, 2013 Noon-9:30 with Fireworks by Youngs Explosives and Monday, September 2, 2013 10 am parade to 6:00 pm

November 26, 2012 - 3:57pm
Event Date and Time: 
December 1, 2012 - 1:00pm to 5:30pm

CHRISTMAS

IN OAKFIELD

 

(Majestic Lights in the Park and Christmas in the Village)

At Triangle Park

December 1st, 2012

1:00pm – Dusk

Lighting of Trees at Dusk (approx. 5pm) at Triangle Park

1 pm-3pm Santa in the Gazebo

June 19, 2010 - 6:26pm
Event Date and Time: 
June 19, 2010 - 6:20pm to July 15, 2010 - 6:20pm

The Oakfield Community Celebration Committee is looking for Craft Vendors and Parade participants for their "Day in the Park" celebration to be held on Monday, September 6, 2010.  Please contact Melissa @585-314-4501 or Janette @ 585-704-3194 for vendor applications ($50 per 12X12 site) or parade participation.  The deadline for craftor applications is July 15, 2010.

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