Fines spark bright idea

Copake uses money from Cascino’s contempt case to go solar

COPAKE–Soon the sun may finally shine on solar panels atop two town-owned buildings, and the money to make it happen may come from an unlikely source.

Copake Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia, who has been working with Councilman Daniel Tompkins on the solar panel project, which is designed to save both energy and costs, announced at the Town Board’s March 15 meeting, that the town could pay for its portion of the project with the money it gets from Salvatore Cascino.

Mr. Cascino has been a thorn in the town’s side for the past 13 years for violating federal, state and town law by illegally dumping and building at his 300-acre Copake property along the east side of Route 22.

Mr. Cascino also owns Bronx County Recycling, LLC, a waste hauling/processing operation just south of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. In an April 2010 ruling, Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols referred to his prior finding that Mr. Cascino was in criminal and civil contempt for violating a court-issued temporary restraining order and confirmed that as a consequence, among other things, Mr. Cascino must pay the town “the reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees expended by” the town in the course of suing Mr. Cascino for contempt.

The judge ordered Mr. Cascino to pay the town $21,609.97.

Though town officials and residents have often speculated that the only way the town could recoup that money would be to put a lien on his property, last week Mr. Cascino, represented by Attorney Dennis Schlenker, finalized a payment agreement with attorney Victor Meyers, representing the town, and will pay the town the court-ordered amount plus interest for a grand total of about $24,000. According to Ms. Gabaccia, Mr. Cascino has already written a check to the town for the first installment of $6,000.

Ms. Gabaccia told The Columbia Paper Wednesday that since 2008, when the town first began exploring its alternative energy options, the firm the town has been working with, Hudson Valley Clean Energy, has reduced the town’s part of the project cost by several thousand dollars, making the town’s initial outlay $29,000 or less. The original estimate of the total project cost was about $300,000 and the town has thus far received two grants totaling $263,000 for the installation of solar panels on the town hall and the park building. Councilwoman Gabaccia and Councilman Tompkins are still pursuing three grants, which range in value from $2,000 to $50,000 to cover the town’s costs.

In addition to the electrical cost savings the town will realize, the panels will generate income for the town through the state’s Solar Renewal Energy Credit (SREC) program. During the first year the panels are operational on the park building they will generate $14,000 and they will continue to generate an annual income throughout their lifetime, Ms. Gabaccia said. Solar panels on Town Hall will also generate income, but cannot become part of the SREC program for three years due to the non-federal source of the funding grant for those panels. The first three years of credits must “go back to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority [NYSERDA] fund,” she said.

Installation of the panels on the park building will start the second week of April, with the panels becoming operational in a couple of months.

The town may deposit both the payments from Mr. Cascino and the income generated by working panels in a dedicated fund to pay for the project.

“The project will not cost the town anything and ultimately save and make money for the town,” Ms. Gabaccia said.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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