Community Center fights for municipal power

National Grid vying to maintain contract

— In an effort to cut costs, the Skaneateles Recreation Charitable Trust wants to contract with the village municipal power system to supply electricity to the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center. The only problem – National Grid is challenging the SRCT’s right to opt out of its current contract.

This disagreement led the Skaneateles village board on Jan. 12 to approve a contract with an Albany-based law firm to assist the SRCT in its efforts to switch to municipal power.

“National Grid is resisting the efforts of the Skaneateles Recreation Charitable Trust, so they need help from attorneys to work this out,” said Skaneateles Village Attorney Michael Byrne. “This lawyer knows how to do it, and we’re optimistic it will get done.”

The potential yearly savings to the SRCT by the switch would be “substantial,” and would for the first time in more than 10 years make the YMCA financially viable, said SRCT President Charlie Wallace.

The Skaneateles Community Center has been working since its creation in 2001 under a long-term contract with National Grid for gas and electric services. At the time it opened, the community center was run by the town as part of its parks and recreation program, but the YMCA took over operations in 2010. The SRCT has always owned the facility.

During its entire existence, the community center has been running with large yearly losses, about $150,000 to $200,000 under the town and about $100,000 to $150,000 under the YMCA, Wallace said.

“The YMCA has made huge strides in reducing our yearly losses,” Wallace said. “They’ve done a lot to increase membership and reduce expenses, but there is still a big issue as to the financial viability of the operation, and the last big issue is the electrical cost. It is substantial.”

Village municipal electric rates for commercial customers are $.0344 per kilowatt hour in summer and $.0465 per kilowatt hour in winter. The National Grid electric rates for commercial customers are about four times that amount, according to one source.

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