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Cogeneration to yield windfall soon for taxpayers

A group of Warren County supervisors observe giant generators in operation — equipment that provides both electric power and heat for the county-owned Westmount Nursing Home. Recently, Westmount Controller Betsy Henkel announced that Warren County was finally likely to receive at least $500,000 in promised reimbursements — delayed for a half-dozen years — from the state for expenses associated with the cogeneration.

A group of Warren County supervisors observe giant generators in operation — equipment that provides both electric power and heat for the county-owned Westmount Nursing Home. Recently, Westmount Controller Betsy Henkel announced that Warren County was finally likely to receive at least $500,000 in promised reimbursements — delayed for a half-dozen years — from the state for expenses associated with the cogeneration. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Although Warren County is seeking to sell Westmount Health Facility due to projected future losses, its finances are likely soon to yield a considerable windfall, a Westmount official told county supervisors recently.

For a half-dozen years, the state government has balked in reimbursing the expenses associated with the county’s cogeneration plant that provides off-the-grid electricity and heat for the skilled nursing home.

Despite approving the cogeneration and endorsing reimbursement of its expenses before it was installed in 2005, the state hasn’t paid the interest and depreciation that the county incurs in lieu of payments it would have made to National Grid for electricity.

But now after various appeals by Warren County officials and a successful lawsuit by Saratoga County, Warren County is likely to receive a check for more than $500,000 — and more in the future, facility officials said.

Westmount Controller Betsy Henkel told the supervisors that the state had initially paid depreciation but not interest incurred by the county for the first two years of cogeneration, and for the years since has disallowed all or portions of one or the other of the two costs.

In the meantime, Westmount officials have appealed the state’s lack of reimbursement, and Saratoga County sued successfully on behalf of their own Maple wood Manor Nursing Home, which also features cogeneration.

Henkel said that the county will likely be receiving $215,000 in reimbursement this year for the first two years of cogeneration capital expenses, and receive $300,000 to $400,000 for 2007 through 2009 — plus an additional yet-to-be-determined refund for the more recent years. She noted that the state is routinely two years behind in reimbursements.

Although the state hasn’t formally committed to the payments, she said that auditors consider the payments a certainty.

Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek said that the county could use the money to offset rising unavoidable costs.

“This is absolutely good news for taxpayers,” he said.

County Health Services Committee Chairman Matt Sokol said that the money would position the county in a more favorable situation as it negotiates the sale of Westmount. Dusek announced Monday the county will be negotiating soon with three potential buyers of Westmount, who have bid from $2.2 million to $3.5 million.

“It’s imperative that the county receives the reimbursement as we move forward with the sale,” he said.

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