WHEATFIELD – Covanta Niagara’s plans to expand its Niagara Falls trash incinerator, including a rail spur to handle municipal garbage from Manhattan, received financial help Wednesday.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board voted unanimously to grant a 15-year property tax break for the $30 million project, which was heavily criticized at a public hearing Friday.
The IDA staff estimates the incentives will save Covanta nearly $8 million over the next 15 years.
Critics at the hearing said the company was capable of carrying out the work without the tax abatement. “This has not been determined,” was the staff response in a memo to the IDA board.
Kevin O’Neil, Covanta Niagara’s business manager, said work already has begun on part of the project: the construction of an underground pipeline carrying steam from the 56th Street incinerator to the new Greenpac paper mill off Packard Road.
“The other projects that provide most of the jobs still are under negotiation,” O’Neil said. “There is no contract with New York City.”
But he appeared confident there would be. “With the support of the IDA, I think it’s done,” O’Neil said. “We’re close to closing” the New York City trash deal. “I expect we will.”
Covanta burns nearly 800,000 tons of trash each year in Niagara Falls, using it to produce electricity and steam for industrial processes. The company supplies steam to several of the major industries that survive in Niagara Falls.
The New York City trash, an estimated 300,000 tons a year, would come by rail via the new spur to be constructed on a brownfield next to the incinerator. Covanta intends to acquire 15 acres of that from Praxair. A new waste-handling facility also would be constructed.
Covanta plans to add a new natural gas-fired boiler to back up the garbage incinerator and make sure it can meet its steam supply commitments. O’Neil said the pipeline to Greenpac needs to be done by April, and the new boiler is due by August, under terms of a contract between Covanta and Greenpac.
Covanta says it will add 23 jobs to its 86-person payroll as a result of the expansion work.
IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma said Covanta receives no tax break if the expansion plans fall through for some reason. The abatement is pegged to the increase in assessed valuation projected for the plant.
The terms of the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement call for the added value at Covanta to be taxed at 15 percent of full value in the first two years; 25 percent in the third and fourth years; 35 percent in years five through nine; and 45 percent in years 10 through 15.
Criticism at Wednesday’s hearing included claims by Henry R. Krawczyk, a nearby resident, about vibration and noise doing damage to his home and his quality of life. O’Neil said he has tried to reach Krawczyk by phone, so far unsuccessfully, and also sent him a letter. He said Covanta policy calls for an in-person response to every neighborhood complaint.