BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The town of Somerset is home to just over 2,000 Western New Yorkers. Economically, they rely on the coal power plant in their backyard.
"It’s provided a lot of jobs for individuals of our community, families have benefited, mortgages have been paid by the paychecks from that plant,” said Town Supervisor Daniel Engert.
But now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has phased out coal power plants throughout the state, somerset needs something new.
“We had that power plant that was at one time 12 to 13 million dollars a year, which was a good 75% of our school budget, but that’s gone, so how do you make that up?” asked Barker Central School District elementary school teacher Dave Carson.
Managing Director at Heorot Power Management Michael Enright has an idea.
“Our proposal has been to close down the coal plant and transition it into...one of the larger data hubs that you see in New York,” said Enright.
The Empire Data Center is an $85 million investment, according to Enright and if successful, will provide more than 160 jobs in the area, but many are worried about what will happen to those working at the coal plant.
“There’s about 60, those employees need help, we need them to be provided those jobs find those opportunities for them to transition to Power Authority jobs or other public sector jobs in New York State,” said Engert.
The town held a rally Wednesday, calling on the state for help.
“We’re seeking power from the NYPA to re-power this facility so we have applied for renewable energy from NYPA, last week we got a very promising first step with an award of 10 Megawatts," said Enright.
Engert feels this is a step in the right direction, but adds there's more to do.
“We need to keep this at the front and center for Empire State Development to look long and hard for providing the incentives for a viable economic development opportunity here in Western New York.”
State officials say the negotiations are ongoing.