National Grid is proposing to put up to $6 million to help communities devastated by flooding rebuild their utilities, farms and business centers.
Company officials met with state legislators and others at the utility’s Cobleskill Service Center to announce the fund; it is expected to come into play once other forms of help, like insurance and federal and state disaster grants, are exhausted.
National Grid New York President Kenneth Daly Wednesday said the company intends to keep the promise it made in communities when its crews were restoring power following two massive storms and, in Montgomery County, a tornado.
National Grid started emergency planning and calling additional, out-of-state crews five days before Hurricane Irene sent floodwaters through the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys and elsewhere.
“In being out in the communities and being in many ways first responders, we heard the stories … We committed to these customers we would be with them through the rebuild phase,” Daly said.
The company on Tuesday submitted a request to the New York State Public Service Commission, which has to approve utility company spending. The PSC is reviewing the application and expects to act on it “as quickly as possible,” according to spokesman James Denn. If approved, the money will be grants to businesses, municipalities and economic development groups.
The announcement comes at a time when some businesses may be considering leaving their communities altogether, said Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie.
“We’re at the stage where state, federal and local funds are basically pushed past their limits, so to me, the announcement from National Grid is like having the cavalry come and help provide relief,” Lopez said. “This money will be critical in helping businesses and farms make the decision as to whether they stay and reinvest or leave. My hope is this announcement will encourage people to stay.”
National Grid is proposing to provide grants under four specific programs:
u Emergency Commercial District Investment: would provide money to help offset community costs to repair and replace gas and electric infrastructure, street lighting, road and bridge work, building demolition and facade reconstruction.
u Emergency Agriculture Fund: to help repair and replace utilities needed for farm operation including pumps, lighting, ventilation and heating systems.
u Emergency Economic Development Bridge Loan Program: loans free of interest to economic development corporations and designated emergency agricultural lenders.
u Emergency Main Street Revitalization Program: money to help renovate buildings left vacant by the flooding and storms. Money could be used for site preparation, construction and industrial renovation for industrial and mixed-use buildings under 100,000 square feet.
The program is targeting counties declared disaster areas: Albany, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington counties.
As the grants and loan money are being distributed, the company intends to work with businesses and officials in hopes of infusing additional energy-efficiency into the work — with the hope they’ll spend less on energy than they did before the disasters.
“We’re hoping that with our funding, folks the second time around do better with more efficient gas and electrical equipment,” Daly said.
The company is promising to make the funds available in 2011 and in 2012, through an application process to be described on National Grid’s Web site at www.nationalgridus.com under the Upstate New York link.
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Categories: Schenectady County