ACCORD – Reorganization took more time than usual, on January 6, as newly-elected Rochester Supervisor Mike Baden set out the new town administration with 37 resolutions, covering everything from Voting Procedures, Personal Vehicle Use, and Petty Cash, to Town Contractual Services, and Appointments and Liaisons.
Chris Hewitt is the newest town board member; Brian Drabkin, Bea Haugen-Depuy, and Cindy Fornino retain their seats on the board. The Rochester Town Planning Board will now be headed by Maren Lindstrom as chair, with Rick Jones as vice chair. The zoning board will be chaired by W. Cliff Mallory, with Steven Fornal as vice chair. Alice Cross will be chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, and Alice Schoonmaker will continue as town historian.
A number of committees that were formed in 2008, but which never met, will be dissolved.
The biggest regular business item for the evening was the resolution to set a date for the Permissive Referendum Ballot, concerning the two town properties that are lined up to be turned into solar arrays by Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. That will be held on January 30, and the voting will take place at the Accord Firehouse Social Hall, 22 Main Street in Accord from 12 noon to 9 p.m.
There was an interesting discussion concerning this vote, which illuminates the ways of democracy. It isn’t done free of charge. The board determined that the cost should not exceed $4,500, and the money for it will come from the fund balance. There are about 4,850 registered voters in the town. The number of ballots to be prepared has not yet been determined. If more people show up than there are ballots, they will vote by affidavit.
Prior to the Referendum Ballot, Mike Baden announced that he had prepared a fact sheet covering the issues raised. Baden added after discussion that the fact sheet will be amended to include information on issues such as the eventual cost of reopening the sand mine, should it be closed for the duration of a solar array set up on it.
Here’s some sample questions and answers from the fact sheet:
"What will I be voting on? — Proposition #1.
The question on the ballot will state: Should the Town of Rochester enter into an option and lease agreement with Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. for land area of 24.11 acres located at 6140 Route 209, tax map parcel 76.1-3-17, for the purpose of erecting and operating a community solar system? The initial lease term will be 20 years with the right to extend the term for up to four additional 5-year periods. Rental fee will be $10,000 per megawatt direct current (MWdc) per lease year with a 1% annual increase for each of the next 20 years. (With about 5 MWdc, that amounts to about $54,000 per year — rising at 1% per year.)
In addition, the contract calls for Borrego to offer solar energy from its Rochester facilities to Rochester residential users at a price about 10% below what it will offer to other electric customers. There is a slightly complicated formula involved that depends upon the level of rebates that Borrego secures from NY State. That price is not simply 10% below the going Central Hudson price as some have suggested. The contract specifies that a LMI (Low to Moderate Income families) program will be set up if NYSERDA agrees to financially support it. NYSERDA would provide financial or credit-rating support to allow LMI families to participate in the program.
The contract specifies that to the extent possible, local contractors will be used for such services as: felling and clearing trees, clearing land, planting and replanting, fencing, and so forth. Borrego has agreed to fund an educational program in cooperation with the Rondout Valley School System.
Won’t that cost the taxpayers money? What are the costs to the Town?
Some, but the $54,000 per year lease payment will both pay for the sand and give the town a net $32,102 profit to be applied against taxes. Currently, the Town uses approximately 5,400 tons of sand per year."
The extensive fact sheet continued. These and other questions will be checked and released to the public later this week.