Gary Van Veghten receives his proclamation from Mayor Mark Blask for his years of service on the Canal Celebration Committee.

by Dave Warner

After approval of the last meeting’s minutes, and the approval of bills and monthly reports, the Common Council moved to the proclamations portion of the meeting.

First up, was one for Gary Van Veghten, who for thirty years, was on the board of the Canal Celebration Committee. “For the last three decades, Gary has been the publicity chair among other duties for Canal Days. You can imagine all that goes into that and all that has changed.  Think about what you were doing thirty years ago,” said Blask. “We sincerely appreciate what you have done for the City.”

Photo by Dave Warner - Chris Van Meter receives her proclamation from Mayor Mark Blask at Tuesday's Common Council meeting.

Photo by Dave Warner – Chris Van Meter receives her proclamation from Mayor Mark Blask at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

The next proclamation was for Chris Van Meter and Blask said, “There’s really not enough space on these proclamations to list all that Chris has done for Little Falls. She left the Tourism Committee a couple of months ago because business is booming for the Van Meters and there’s a lot going on. Chris has been so important to tourism, but really to Little  Falls beyond that.”

“This has been a long sustained period of service for Chris. As we talk about the trajectory that Little Falls is on, it’s really because of the people in this room. We’ve got to remember that that is the driver of what is going on,” stated Blask.

Next, a presentation was made about the Working Woodlands Project by Troy Weldy, Senior Conservation Manager for The Nature Conservancy, a New York Program. Blask stated that they are a company that the City had been talking to for the last six to eight months.

The Nature Conservancy has a new program called Working Woodlands, which offers forest landowners with more than 2,000 acres, opportunities to ensure sustainable forest management while generating revenue from improved timber management and from the growing carbon market.

The Nature Conservancy would provide three key services for the City without cost:

  • Carbon Credit Revenue
  • Forest Certification
  • Working Forest Conservation Easement

Photo by Dave Warner – Troy Weldy makes a presentation to the Little Falls Common Council about the Working Woodlands proposal.

Weldy said, “We use the forest that is out there. All those trees are sucking carbon in and storing it. We can take that carbon that is stored in your trees and sell it to corporations to offset their carbon footprint.”

He said that they came in about two years ago and made a presentation, and then went out and surveyed the forest areas that Little Falls owns. They then developed a plan from that information that went along with the survey.

“We estimated that your property was worth over a million dollars that would be paid out over a period of ten years,” said Weldy.

They estimated that the carbon is worth about $10 a ton, which they consider being on the conservative side of the projections.

The million dollars? “that’s a net amount to Little Falls,” stated Weldy.

He continued that the agreement would ensure that the woodlands and watershed would be protected. “We want to keep these water supply lands as forests and provide clean water to the residents,” he said.

The next step will be for The Nature Conservancy to draft the final documents for the City to approve. Since they last visited, the City of Albany has signed up for the program as well as the City of Port Jervis.

“We’ve also signed up other landowners and municipalities in various places across the U.S.,” said Weldy.

“It’s a new and innovative way to bring revenues to these municipalities,” he said.

Members of the Common Council then asked questions about the program. Blask said, “the numbers sound really good. Is there a reason other municipalities have not gotten on board?”

Weldon said that many don’t have the number of acres available that the City has to make it a viable program. “It’s a small niche of places that actually have the required acreage. We look at 2,000 acres and above.”

The program is a revenue share where the City gets 60%, The Nature Conservancy gets 20% and a carbon vendor gets the remaining 20% and there are no costs to the City.

Weldon said, “there are costs that are there (in the revenue table) but they are taken out before we get to the revenue sharing. We set aside an endowment to cover those monetary costs.”

The City will also be allowed to continue their current timber harvesting operations.

“In all likelihood, this will be on the agenda for January (2020),” said Blask. “This is a pretty long-term commitment for the City of Little Falls as far as carbon credits are concerned.”

According to Weldon, revenue from any potential agreement would not get to the City for 18-24 months after final documents were signed.

In other business, Resolution #40 was approved to allow the purchase of a truck-plow vehicle for the City of Little Falls Department of Public Works, which would be a two-year installment purchase lease from M&T Bank.

Finally, Resolution #41 was passed, delegating the City Treasurer of the City of Little Falls the power to authorize the issuance of and to sell not exceeding $1,400,000 Tax Anticipation notes in anticipation of the collection of taxes levied for the fiscal year of 2020.

The resolution is strictly for cash-flow purposes, as bills are due in January, and taxes are not collected for the year until April.

In his closing remarks, Mark Blask praised the three councilmen that will be leaving due to the elections held in November. For Nick Regan, Peter Atutkis and Jeff Gressler, this was their final appearance on the council.

“It’s their last meeting and I just wanted to talk about each of them. As we talk about this theme of service tonight, it’s just remarkable,” what these individuals have done.