Letter to CEO of NYPA, Richard Kessel

December 8, 2009

From: Richard Grover
To: Richard Kessel

Mr. Kessel:  The County Legislature met Monday night and the controversy over management of the $16M and 20MW of power dominated the session.  Four members of our Coalition addressed the Board, as did Mr. McNeil and Mr. Gustafson who represented the Local Government Task Force.  We advocated a comprehensive approach, consistent with the County's adopted Public Policy Guide, that would allow funding for a variety of purposes including projects that contribute to environmental stewardship and education.  This approach is consistent with the spirit of the failed Aquarium & Ecological Center.  We also promoted a Greenway planning process to bring comprehensive thinking and citizen participation into the decision-making process.  Mr. McNeil argued that enough money has already been spent on the environment, and that the County should move forward expeditiously to secure the money and power.  He assured everyone that environmental concerns would be taken into account once the money was in hand.  In the end, it was not surprising that there was significant political support for moving the process forward without delay.  One official, a member of the County IDA, argued that the County should "submit the agreement to NYPA.  If they [the Coalition] have Kessel in their back pocket let him vote 'no' on it." 

Our Steering Committee is considering its options.  We stated it last night and I'll repeat it here, we do not want to unnecessarily delay the release of money to St. Lawrence County.  In fact, we'd like to support this initiative.  However, we've heard promises before that were not honored.  Citizens who have been involved in this issue since 2007 have complained that their input was systematically ignored, and that all important decisions are negotiated by committees behind closed doors to circumvent the NYS Open Meetings law.  Our experience since May this year echos their complaints.   In addition, we remain concerned that the scope of projects potentially eligible for financial assistance is too narrow.

Our deliberations are continuing.  We shall keep you informed of our thinking and any decisions on this important matter.  Thank you for your continuing encouragement. 

Richard Grover
for the St. Lawrence Valley Environmental Coalition

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