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Local funding sought for Lyons Falls mill demolition work

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Development Corp. is seeking funding from the county and other entities to cover the local share of demolition work at the old Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper mill.

“It’s a considerable return on investment for all parties, including the county,” corporation President Lawrence L. Dolhof told the county legislative Economic Development Committee on Thursday. “It’s an investment in the future.”

Mr. Dolhof said he would like to see the county earmark the $100,000 in its economic development capital reserve fund to the Lyons Falls mill redevelopment effort.

That money would be used to help meet the roughly $700,000 local share for the initial phase, including demolition of several heavily deteriorated buildings at the site that are hindering Kruger Energy from undertaking a proposed expansion of its adjacent hydroelectric facility.

After a discussion about other potential funding sources, lawmakers indicated their support for using at least a portion of the $100,000 toward the project, although no dollar amount was set and any such action would require approval of the full Legislature.

Given the work already completed on the mill redevelopment project, it makes sense to keep moving forward to reap the benefits of a larger hydroelectric facility and cleaned-up site, said Legislator William J. Burke, R-West Lowville.

“If the payback’s not in our time, it will be soon afterward,” Mr. Burke said.

“The payback is getting that thing torn down,” said Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville.

The development corporation was awarded $330,000 in 2011 for planning and an additional $1 million in December for initial demolition work on the redevelopment project, being managed by the Development Authority of the North Country. However, the state funding requires that local funds cover a portion of the work.

Corporation members are planning to meet soon with representatives of Kruger to seek funding from the Canadian company, which would gain extra land and access needed to complete its long-discussed expansion plans, Mr. Dolhof said.

Other agencies, such as the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency and DANC, also are likely to be approached for funding assistance on the project’s first phase, officials said.

“We’re trying to play all the pieces we can to get this phase done,” said committee Chairman Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, also a member of the LCDC and DANC boards.

The county and the IDA each contributed $100,000 toward the Lyons Falls project several years ago, with the county money used primarily for planning expenses and the IDA money used to help buy the property.

Lewis County IDA Executive Director Richard H. Porter said that while his board likely would be amenable to assisting the project further, he was uncertain whether it could be done legally.

“We’ll have to seek an outside counsel,” he said.

The IDA’s $100,000 payout was used to purchase a mortgage on the property, as the agency is not allowed to just give money to another entity, Mr. Porter said.

If and when the first phase of the project is complete, future phases will include demolition of other deteriorated buildings at the complex, a feasibility study to determine whether reuse of the remaining structures would be cost-effective and removal of ancillary structures, such as old tanks.

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