Tonawanda News — SOMERSET — There’s life in this town after AES. In fact, there’s life at the AES site.
Smoke began billowing from the coal-burning power plant again Thursday while about 20 residents heard a presentation from the Niagara County Department for Economic Development.
“The plant is spewing a bit of smoke,” a surprised Supervisor Dan Engert said after the meeting. “They went online earlier today.... I don’t know for how long, but it’s a welcome sight for the workers and the residents in Somerset!”
AES, Niagara County’s largest single taxpayer, declared bankruptcy in December and has been off-line. Bondholders who own the plant on Lake Ontario are working out legal wrinkles for the new company Engert refers to as “Newco.”
“AES is working through the final stages of the closing process,” Engert said. “Once that property is closed on, and in the hands of the bondholders, they’re fully expecting to go back up on line. They’re gearing up to do that. The new company hopes (the real estate transaction will be) closed at the end of month. That’s the target.”
The bondholders and Somerset are working to make the property “shovel ready” and are in the process of applying for that state status.
Meanwhile, Samuel M. Ferraro, the executive director of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, led his team in a two-hour give-and-take with stakeholders at the town hall.
Susan Langdon, the director of project development; Michael Casale, the deputy commissioner of Business Development; Andrea Klyczek, the director of marketing and Amy E. Fisk, senior planner explained what the county can do to help the town realize its potential under a new master plan.
They addressed what can be done in Somerset and the county’s role.
While Verizon, which left town after legal delays, is out of the picture, for now, smaller plans could build the town’s new economy.
Chuck Ferree, who works at Mayer Bros., is looking to start a business. “I didn’t know where to turn next. I have an idea, a basic dream what I want to do and I didn’t know where to go,” he said. “These people will be great contacts for me.”
Ferraro emphasized the great competition in the state, the country and internationally to draw business. Is there competition within the county?
“We respect the postion of every municipality in Niagara County,” Ferraro answered. “It’s important that the entire county, from an economic development standpoint, is marketed. We market all the assets of Niagara County, every munciaplity is unique as to what it can bring to the table and want to everybody know we’re going to market Somerset and the rest of Niagara County.”