Lewiston's residential electrical users to receive hydropower rebate cards
By Terry Duffy
Good news for Lewiston's residential electrical users: Those long-awaited New York Power Authority hydropower rebates will soon be coming in the mail.
As many town residents were likely aware of (but now may have forgotten), among the packages contained in NYPA's 2007 federal licensing resettlement agreement with the Town of Lewiston was a percentage of money geared for reimbursements afforded to its residential electrical users. The town has since modified that part of the package, opting to retain future NYPA hydropower electric reimbursement monies toward its own operations.
But hydropower rebate money from an earlier timeframe under the NYPA agreement remains, and those leftover funds will now be returned to Lewiston's residential electrical customers in the form of rebate cards. The Town Board approved an agreement Monday where it would work with KeyBank in a distribution of the rebate cards to the affected customers who are residents of the Town and Village of Lewiston.
"As everybody knows, we've been trying to get all the pieces to fall in place on this," Finance Director/Budget Officer Martha Blazick said. "KeyBank ... came up with an idea of issuing a prepaid debit card instead of using checking accounts ... (to disperse the hydroelectric rebates to town residents)."
Blazick told Town Board members the normal way (issuing checks to residents) "is time-intensive. We're probably dealing with ... six to eight months to complete it, where, if we go the prepaid card route, we lower the cost, as well as lower the time frame ... when we can get these issued."
"It pushes a lot of the work onto KeyBank," Blazick said.
Under the arrangement with KeyBank, each user (electrical residential customer) of the village and the town would receive a prepaid debit card.
"It is a KeyBank card, but it can be used anywhere, or you can take it to KeyBank and get your money," Blazick said.
She told board members that, increasingly, issuing rebate cards is the chosen route versus checks. "It actually is more fraud-proof. ... It also keeps us from having (to do) a lot of intensive work. ...
"We have decided that this is a very viable option, and would really make this a much easier process and more likely to get it done."
Blazick then requested Town Board approval for the plan "so we can engage KeyBank into doing this process."
"I think this is exciting; we're getting this close to doing this," Councilman Bill Geiben said. He suggested the town pursue some display adverting in local papers to inform Lewiston's electrical residential customers of the rebates, so that residents who receive the KeyBank mailers won't think they're junk mail.
Blazick said the town, under the KeyBank agreement, would also be able to prepare inserts for the bank to print and include with its mailers "so that it will have an explanation along with their prepaid information" to electrical customers.
"It will be a letter from the town, explaining what they're getting," Supervisor Steve Broderick said.
"Lets promote it the best that we can," Geiben said.
Blazick said the town has roughly $1.084 million is assigned funds to issue the rebates along with $20,000-30,000 in costs for processing. She said it would have cost the town $40,000-$50,000 using traditional check issuing methods.
"What we are doing is taking our residential (property) lists, providing that list to National Grid. National Grid, in turn, will provide us of the electric users as of the date that we request," she said. "It's not based on when you owned the home five years ago or anything else. This is a one-time disbursement based on that date that we get (on) that list from National Grid. We will then take that list, send it to KeyBank, they will process it."
Blazick explained the town would then do a transfer of the NYPA rebate funds to KeyBank, which, in turn, would deposit the funds to the rebate cards for distribution. "At that point, those cards are disbursed to the residents, put in the mail."
Blazick estimated 6,500 cards would be issued to eligible customers, and would need to be activated. To activate a card, the recipient would need to provide KeyBank the residential electrical account number that corresponds to the card.
Blazick said the town would have access to the KeyBank reports for monitoring the distributions - who received it, who didn't, and who used the cards and took the rebate.
"We can find if a card is not being used, and we can contact that person," she said.
If a card is mailed out and remains dormant for 12 consecutive months, Blazick said KeyBank would start drawing against the rebate card to maintain it. If a card accidentally gets thrown out, Blazick said the town could void it and reissue a new one to the customer.
"We will be able to monitor it (rebate cards) if it's not being used," Blazick said.
She suggested the town prepare a letter insert with the card, telling board members, "My biggest concern is, I'm getting closer and closer to budget ... and this is going to get stalled out."
Town Board members went on to unanimously approve the agreement with KeyBank. Lewiston's residential electrical users can now look forward to receiving the rebate cards in the near future.
In other news from the session:
•Attorney for the town A. Joseph Catalano informed the board a new town law draft covering use of LED signs and electronic messaging displays is now complete.
"We have no such law currently in the town," he said. "This is basically going to be a new town law," to be known as 360-184 under the town's Zoning Code.
The Town Board approved a public hearing on the new measure. It will be held at 6 p.m. Monday May 8, prior to the Town Board work session.
Catalano also presented the board a resolution covering water fees, deposits and seasonal fees. The measure calls for fees and deposits to be paid for by the individual resident who is actually receiving the service, rather than town residents as a whole, which had been the case.
"The entire town is paying for ... repair of things such as water lines, disconnect fees (and) water meter replacements," Catalano said.
He said the Town Water Department requested the change. Fees charged would be "commensurate with the services provided and will correspond with the man-hours and equipment required to perform the service," Catalano said.
The measure went on to be unanimously approved by the board.
•The board also approved a Broderick motion for the town to provide $50,000 in Greenway funding toward the Discover Niagara Shuttle for its 2017 operations.
•The board approved the full-time hire of Michael Litten to the Lewiston Police Department. The board was also advised LPD Officer Lauren Campbell would return as a part-timer with LPD.
•Geiben informed the board he plans to have a resolution ready by the May work session, covering the "broadcast particulars" of the town's long-planned cable TV airings of its sessions.