LOCKPORT – A Niagara County Legislature committee voted Tuesday to work out a formal agreement with the Town of Lewiston to fund legal work aimed at defeating CWM Chemical Services’ hope of opening a new hazardous waste landfill on its Porter property.
And it appeared that Gary A. Abraham would continue to be the attorney handling that work.
After an hour of discussion with Abraham in public session and about 80 minutes with him in closed session, the Legislature’s Administration Committee set aside a resolution to simply continue the plan of alternating $50,000 retainers for Abraham by the county and the town.
Instead, a formal agreement is to be worked out regarding a funding commitment to oppose CWM’s expansion plans through the state siting process.
“The funding will go on as a result,” proclaimed Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville. “We will have a resolution that says Gary Abraham will get a certain amount of money.”
“I think they committed themselves,” Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said of his colleagues.
“I wouldn’t challenge anything any legislator said tonight,” said Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport. Asked if Abraham would continue to be the county’s attorney in the effort to block CWM’s expansion, Updegrove said, “I haven’t seen anybody say he wouldn’t be.”
“We are enthusiastic that we’re going to get some results,” said Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda.
But the amount of the expense wasn’t determined Tuesday. “At this point, Mr. Abraham is unable to give us a definitive number,” said Alfonso M. Bax, a Lewiston councilman who sat in on the committee’s closed session.
Bax said that over the past eight years, the county and the town together have spent more than $300,000 on Abraham.
Abraham told the lawmakers that he believes the state Department of Environmental Conservation is about to declare CWM’s expansion application complete, 10 years after it was filed. That announcement would cue a siting board process that would end with a determination on whether CWM would be allowed to dig a new landfill beside its existing one.
However, the members of the siting board have yet to be appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Abraham said he thinks the DEC is waiting for those appointments before deeming the application complete.
Lewiston appropriated Abraham’s latest retainer last month, so there is no immediate urgency for the county to come up with more money.
Updegrove said, “Action will be taken while Mr. Abraham is still retained.” “We’re good here for a few months. It will continue seamlessly,” Burmaster said.
Ross said efforts will be made to bring other municipalities on board to contribute, but he said it might not be easy to do. Noting the difficulty the county encountered in lining up contributions to the Niagara Military Affairs Council’s efforts to protect the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closure, Ross said, “It’ll be an even harder sell, probably.”