Jul 23, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The New York Power Authority has approved a grant request to increase the Skaneateles village municipal electric output in order to help power the Skaneateles YMCA and its planned $4.9 million expansion. The problem, however, is that the grant is contingent upon the YMCA’s switch from National Grid to Skaneateles Electric Light as its power supplier — a switch National Grid has been blocking for nearly one year.
The grant, approved by the NYPA board of trustees in late June, would extend an additional 100 kw of hydropower to the Skaneateles municipal electric system, or one-quarter of additional load to the village as created by the YMCA with the expansion.
“This past week we were informed our [grant] request had been granted, but this only helps if we can find a way to get the power to [the YMCA],” said Skaneateles Village Attorney Michael J. Byrne, referring to the stalemate between the YMCA and National Grid. “It was a big step this week, but not the breakthrough we need.”
Village officials have been working since last year with the Skaneateles Recreation Charitable Trust to get the YMCA onto village municipal power, and the grant application was part of the ongoing process, Byrne said.
The SRCT, which owns the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center facility, began speaking to village officials in late 2011 about switching over to municipal power from National Grid. The switch would be a “substantial change to the cost of electricity to the recreation center,” said SRCT President Charlie Wallace, who preferred not to give specific cost and savings numbers due to their mutability.
According to a NYPA press release, the grant was awarded to assist the SRCT in its planned 42,468 square-foot expansion that would include a second ice rink, new basketball courts, expanded fitness areas and additional community rooms. The expansion would necessitate an additional 416 kw of electricity to the YMCA’s current load.
“We’re still really in the preliminary stages [of the expansion],” and there is no time frame yet as to when it will be started or finished, Wallace said. The news that the village was awarded the grant, however, “is fantastic,” he said. “This will retain low rates for everybody in the electric district.”
The NYPA grant of 100 kw is tied directly to the number of jobs the expansion project would create, which is estimated at five full-time positions, said Bob Lotkowictz, village director of municipal operations, who applied for the grant.
“This is pretty substantial. We’re really happy about it. But it is contingent on the switch from National Grid to village municipal power,” Lotkowictz said.
The YMCA is entitled to use village electric because it is within the village limits, but National Grid, which has been servicing the community center since its creation in 2001, refuses to let the non-profit opt out of its current contract, which expires at the end of 2013.
“We continue to work with the Community Center; we’ve been working on this for many years. We strive to protect the interests of our customers and hope to arrive at a positive resolution,” said National Grid spokesperson Virginia Limmiatis.
Wallace also said the SRCT has been “working with National Grid to try to resolve the issues,” but it also has been working with the village to prepare for the conversion to municipal electric. No definite date of conversion has been set, but the SRCT hopes to make the change by the end of next year, he said.
This disagreement over the SRCT’s electric contract led the Skaneateles Village Board of Trustees on Jan. 12 to approve a contract with Albany-based law firm Read & Laniado to assist the SRCT in its efforts to switch to municipal power.
“We’ve been working with the Albany attorney and we’re making progress,” Byrne said. “I’d say we’re close to the point of a definite answer, but it is taking longer than we thought.”
A major issue in the disagreement is about infrastructure. National Grid built and paid for the gas and electric lines that run to the YMCA. If the SRCT changed over to municipal electric, the village would either have to acquire the current National Grid line and make it an “independent delivery point,” in which the village puts a meter on the side of the YMCA building and then bills the SRCT after being billed itself by National Grid; or build a brand-new gas and electric line through the village to the YMCA, which would be paid by the village — and therefore the village taxpayers — because the village is responsible for getting power lines to its customers.
The village prefers the “independent delivery point” idea because it is not only cheaper financially but would also enable the village to build out its infrastructure, Byrne said. “There’s a lot of reasons to do this, not just for the Community Center, but National grid is still fighting it. I can’t tell you the hours we’ve put in on this. It’s very frustrating.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.