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Lewiston eying new electrical billing arrangement

by jmaloni
Sat, Mar 17th 2012 07:00 am

by Terry Duffy

Attendees at the Lewiston Town Board work session heard on a few interest items, including an electrical billing proposal and future plans for River Walk, Monday evening at Town Hall.

Leading to the actual session, Joseph S. Mascaro, chief executive officer of Energy Cooperative America Inc., visited and discussed options for assisting the town on allocating its low-cost power electrical package to area residents.

Lewiston, like other municipalities that participated in the earlier Niagara Power Coalition when it negotiated the relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority, now receives a number of benefits from NYPA as a lead host community. One of them is 6.5 megawatts of low-cost power, which the town since the 2007 settlement has been sharing among its roughly 5,500 residential electrical accounts. The billing arrangement until recently has been managed by National Grid, which announced last fall it had opted to pull out of the bill-handling due to numerous changes in the electrical delivery market to consumers. So as a result the town has been investigating its options.

Mascaro told Reiter and the board that the Energy Cooperative group had two options the town could consider. Included were: Creating a Lewiston Power Pool Program, where ECA would create a settlement pool for Lewiston's residential accounts, with designated accounts enrolled and commodity costs for service determined by the ECA and town, and billing handled through the utility provider. Benefits to the town according to Mascaro would be that Lewiston would maintain the NYPA credit discount and the supply rate, among others. However the town would also need to handle logistical issues, such as current residential contracts, verifying designated accounts and determining pool rates.

The other option would be for the town to create what Mascaro called the monthly cash-out of NYPA allocation. In this arrangement the town would maintain a list of eligible accounts; designated residential accounts would be enrolled via the ECA group; the town would disburse payment semi-annually to National Grid for the 5,500 accounts; National Grid in turn would issue billing data for all 5,500 accounts; and calculation of the electrical credit to the end user would be based on the volume used by each residential or business meter. Monthly cash payouts would come via the NYPA power allocations to the town and managed by ECA.

Mascaro in his brief remarks suggested the second option could be of more benefit to the town but he didn't elaborate. Mascaro is scheduled to revisit and discuss the proposal in greater detail before the board and area residents at the Town Board March 26 regular meeting, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

In other news:

•At the work session itself, Reiter in response to drainage issues posed earlier by a resident informed that the town was now considering a new development plan in the River Walk subdivision. "A new subdivision bordering up to River Walk has been submitted," said Reiter. "We're reviewing plans."

Reiter said that a new drainage plan to address the continuing problem of standing water would be included. "It's only in the planning stages. The improvements would be incorporated under the new proposal," said Reiter.

More to come as news develops.

•The town announced it is considering changes to address building department violations, namely a problem of unregistered vehicles and unkempt properties in the town. Town Building Inspector Tim Masters was scheduled to meet with Town Attorney Mike Dowd to discuss the legalities on changing the building code ordinances with the intent to strengthen them. The matter would then come before the board for its review and approval.

•The town was advised by the state Department of Environmental Conservation of infestations of the emerald ash borer affecting trees on town easements adjacent to the Niagara Falls County Club on Mountain View Drive. DEC reportedly came upon the infestations and informed the town. DEC informed Lewiston it has until to May to determine whether it is responsible for taking the trees down. Reiter said he would be looking into the matter.

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