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WHEATFIELD – The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency changed its mind Wednesday and awarded a tax break for the expansion of a Ransomville auto dealer.

The only difference between Wednesday’s action and the one rejected in April was that it was a tax abatement of five years rather than 15.

There was one other difference: attendance at the meeting.

Two months ago, the vote in favor of a tax break for Ki-Po Chevrolet was 4-2, but the board has nine members, meaning that five votes are required to approve anything. Three members were absent.

Wednesday, the vote was 7-1. There is now one vacancy on the board.

The only opposition Wednesday came from Stephen F. Brady, spokesman for National Grid, who voted “no” two months ago. Michael W. McNally, business manager for Local 22, Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, changed his vote to “yes.”

He said the main reason was the reduction in the length of the arrangement for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT.

IDA attorney Mark J. Gabriele said acting IDA Chairman Michael W. Tucker, mayor of Lockport, used his authority to put Ki-Po back on the agenda.

Tucker said, “I talked to a lot of people from Ki-Po, Legislator Burmaster,” referring to Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville. “There seems to be a lot of support.”

Tucker noted that General Motors has threatened Ki-Po with the loss of its Chevy franchise if the building wasn’t improved.

Wilson Supervisor Joseph A. Jastrzemski, an IDA board member, said the loss of the car dealership, in addition to the potential closure of the hamlet’s elementary school by the Wilson Central School District, constitutes a “devastating” scenario for Ransomville, which is just outside the Wilson town boundary, in the Town of Porter.

McNally said, “It would be a huge impact on the bank, the restaurants.”

Ki-Po employs 24 people in Ransomville and plans to add eight more jobs after the $1.5 million project, which includes a 4,300-square-foot addition and interior renovation.

The PILOT will save the dealership $54,000 in property taxes and an estimated $89,000 in sales tax that it won’t have to pay on building materials and furnishings for the addition.

Brady suggested that the IDA should change its rules so that a majority of members present could approve anything as long as there was a quorum for that meeting.

This could potentially mean that a tax break could be granted with as few as three votes out of five members present for a meeting.

“If you have enough people present to hold a meeting, you should be able to decide the issue,” Brady said.

“I think it’s fair to the applicant,” IDA member Kevin J. McCabe said.

In other action Wednesday, the board approved 15-year tax breaks for a manufacturer and a senior citizens housing project.

AMDOR Inc., a Canadian company, will buy 7.5 acres of land from the IDA in its Wheatfield industrial park and erect a 20,000-square-foot factory to produce roll-up doors and light bars for emergency vehicles.

The company, whose $1.95 million project is to create 20 jobs, is a subsidiary of Whiting Group of Burlington, Ont.

Bridgewater Estates, a planned $12.3 million, 139-unit housing complex, is to be built on Ridge Road near Town Hall in Lewiston, on land owned by the mother of Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter, who is selling the land to the Amherst-based developers.

The incentives are estimated to save the developers nearly $1.8 million over 15 years.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com