By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- Negotiations between the New York Power Authority and the St. Lawrence County Local Government Task Force have "abruptly halted," according to a news release from the task force.
The two sides have been trying to settle a relicensing deal that expired in 2012 and local officials aren't buying NYPA's latest offer.
"After flying to Massena on NYPA’s private plane and making a take-it-or-leave-it final offer to the Task Force negotiating team, NYPA officials said the review was over and no further negotiations would take place," the release says. "Last night, the Task Force met and unanimously and summarily rejected the NYPA proposal."
Gray says the task force is pushing for a deal similar to the one NYPA has with communities in western New York. In exchange for the right to operate the Niagara power project in Lewiston, NYPA pays the city of Buffalo and Erie and Niagara counties $973 million. St. Lawrence County and the towns of Massena, Louisville and Waddington get $115 million and in exchange, NYPA gets to operate the Moses-Saunders Power Dam in Massena.
"They control almost 50 miles of our shoreline they have shut it down to private and commercial use," Gray said in a phone interview, adding that this siphons millions of dollars from local tax coffers. "Give us our land back, put it on the tax rolls and we'll make money … the islands in the river are going to waste in the bureaucratic wasteland."
Gray said NYPA officials claimed the recent deal to monetize 20 megawatts of electricity from the Moses-Saunders dam and their agreement to lease a hangar at Massena International Airport were sufficient.
"The final offer included no new monetary compensation for the host communities and was a mixture of recently completed items such as the Northern New York Power Proceeds Act, St. Regis Mohawk Land Claims, and an offer for an economic development study that has been a longstanding request of the St. Lawrence River Redevelopment Agency," the release says.
Gray said the task force has several options.
"We are discussing those with our attorney right now," he said.
They range from filing a lawsuit to "actively engaging state and federal officials."