Transcript: Need to Know Rochester for March 26, 2010
By Chris Campbell ~ Posted Tue, 07/20/2010 - 2:23pm
COMING UP ON NEED TO KNOW, WAYNE COUNTY RESIDENTS ARE WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS OF BUILDING WIND FARM ON LAKE ONTARIO – PERHAPS THE FIRST FRESHWATER, OFFSHORE WIND FARM IN THE WORLD. WE’LL TALK TO THE JAMES HOFFMAN, CHAIR OF THE WAYNE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. ALSO, A LOCAL SURGEON TELLS US WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO HELP HAITIANS INJURED IN THE JANUARY EARTHQUAKE.
(ANNOUNCER) ROCHESTER'S NEWSMAGAZINE SINCE 1997, THIS IS NEED TO KNOW.
I’M PETER IGLINSKI, THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME FOR THIS EDITION OF NEED TO KNOW.
STATE, LOCAL AND PROVINCIAL LEADERS IN A NUMBER OF COMMUNITIES AROUND THE GREAT LAKES ARE RACING TO BE THE FIRST TO BUILD A FRESHWATER, OFFSHORE WIND FARM. NEW YORK STATE IS AMONG THEM. THIS WEEK, THE STATE SAID IT HAS RECEIVED NEARLY A DOZEN LETTERS OF INTENT FROM COMPANIES INTERESTED IN BIDDING ON A PROJECT, EITHER ON LAKE ONTARIO OR LAKE ERIE. THE STATE POWER AUTHORITY HAS STUDIED POTENTIAL LOCATIONS FOR WIND TURBINES TO BE LOCATED ON THESE LAKES – AND ONE OF THOSE SITES LIES OFF THE WAYNE COUNTY SHORELINE. NEXT WEEK, THE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS IS HOLDING A PUBLIC HEARING, AND THE HEAD OF THE BOARD JAMES HOFFMAN JOINS US NOW. Thank you for being with us.
(JAMES HOFFMAN) Pleasure to be here.
(Peter) Have you been contacted by any companies yet for information about the project?
(Hoffman) No. No I have not. In Wayne County we've not been contacted by any companies interested or by the New York power authority either.
(Peter) What kind of information do you have to give them? Do you have a lot?
(Hoffman) Well, we don't have a lot. The information we have on the project, I attend a meeting in Oswego County, perhaps, in November and also the website is our primary source of information.
(Peter) So when have you started taking this seriously. When did you start expecting something?
(Hoffman) Well, just a couple weeks ago some of our lakeshore supervisors received some comments from lakeshore residents that were quite concerned about it that were not in favor of it. Then one of our supervisors brought it to the county board of supervisors. There was discussion and the consensus was we should probably have a public hearing because I think we realized that most people were not aware of it.
(Peter) What do you do now? Do you travel to places where there are wind turbines to see how they operate? Is there anything comparable for you to look at?
(Hoffman) No, I don't think there is nearby. Some of us have traveled to some of the sites in New York. Some of the supervisors have. We do have a couple wind turbines in Wayne County. In fact, the first residential wind turbine in our county is located in Williamson on a residence on Lake Road and we have a business in Ontario that uses a fairly large one for most of its energy source.
(Peter) The farm is a little different?
(Hoffman) The farm is a little different. We don't have anything nearby. Probably Wyoming County is the closest.
(Peter) What's your understanding of the potential for wind energy development off Wayne County's shoreline?
(Hoffman) My understanding is there is a potential for it. The wind is suitable for it. Primarily the further east you go to the other counties, Jefferson and Oswego County, the wind is a little bit stronger and more reliable but there is, I understand, a sufficient wind along the lakeshore, but a little stronger towards the east. That's where there would be greater potential.
(Peter) What's do you think are the possible positive outcomes for Wayne County?
(Hoffman) Well, the positive outcomes I suppose it would be nice to be on the cutting edge of something new. I think it would be nice to be part of renewable energy. I think the county and supervisors embraces the concept as something to look at. Beyond that I think that's some of the questions we don't know what the benefits would be for Wayne County just yet.
(Peter) What about the negative outcomes?
(Hoffman) Well, there's potential negative outcomes and that's what I've probably heard about the most. You start off with Lake Ontario is a tremendous natural resource. We have a tourist industry there, a fishing industry, most viewers know what Sodus Point is and have heard of that. There's a tremendous charter boat fishing industry all along the lakeshore starting in there and going up towards the east. A lot of concerns about what it would do to those industries and really the great lakes. I think it's about a quarter of the fresh water in the world is located in the great lakes and of course Lake Ontario is a big part of it. So, I guess, a lot of concern about what that impact might be, and like wise we don't have any real details on what the impact could be on the economy. That's unknown.
(Peter) What was your gut feeling at first?
(Hoffman) My gut feeling at first was that we'd probably receive a lot of different opinions about this, and I have. And I have.
(Peter) And that’s not going to stop?
(Hoffman)No, that's not going to stop. I think what I would like to emphasize is that the board really would like the people of Wayne County to know about it and I think now that there has been a lot of publicity about it, people will be aware of it. But boy, the pros and cons, there's a couple ways to slice and dice the issue. That's for sure.
(Peter) Did you have an initial pro or con at first, when you heard about this?
(Hoffman) No, not really. I think I can immediately see both sides of it. The reason being, I do and I follow renewable energy. We do subscribe to it. Most of us do as supervisors, but I also live in a town that's on the lakeshore so I'm very familiar with the industry, the tourism, the natural habitat that's there. So right away I said there's two sides to this issue.
(Peter) Neighbors to the east, as you know, Jefferson County decided they don't want this sort of thing.
(Hoffman) Yes. I have read that they have. Each county has a board resolution from their legislature in opposition.
(Peter) Do you anticipate any particular outcome in Wayne County?
(Hoffman) I can't say that I do for sure. Again, initially most of the comments have been not in support of it, but it's hard to say. That's why we're going to have that hearing Wednesday night.
(Peter) So what happens at the hearing? Who's going to be there and what will be presented? If no company has come forward, what will be presented?
(Hoffman) I think basically what will be presented is a sketch of the bare bones details that we know about the proposal from the website and then simply give the people and opportunity to express their position. If they are for or against it and express their concerns.
(Peter) Do you think this will ultimately be decided on the aesthetics of the turbine farm or on the economics? On both?
(Hoffman) As far as the board’s position I think it will be determined on the predominant input from the public. I think that will determine what the Wayne County board of supervisors' opinion would be. Then it would be voted on. We have 15 towns and 15 supervisors. Not everyone will vote the same way.
(Peter) From your understanding, is a turbine a turbine a turbine? Are they all the same? Are there differences between turbines?
(Hoffman) No they are not the same. In fact, I believe technology has improved. I think some of the turbines today are much smaller. They are always improving and getting more efficient. I believe now there are some turbines that are effective that are only about 30 feet tall. However, I don't believe that's what is anticipated here for this particular project. It would be the much larger ones. I believe they can be as close as two feet to the shoreline, or that's what's suggested by the authority. They are the much larger ones, which require a much larger base. So these would be the large ones.
(Peter) Now the county would have to get something in return financially. Is there a position that if you go in this direction do you have a position for how much money you'd have to get in the county?
(Hoffman) No position is formulated. That is a good question because we don't know what benefits there would be to the county. If it's possible if there ever was such a project would there be lower rates for electricity? I don't know because I believe that the project, if there was one, would have to hook up to the grid. Nobody would run a line to the windmills and get power in a town along the shoreline. That wouldn't happen, so it's really unknown at this time what benefit there would be for the county.
(Peter) Can you give me a sense of the timeline? We are at the point at the first public hearing. No companies come forward. What is the soonest anything could happen if you were to go in the direction of a wind farm?
(Hoffman) Well, I believe in December they are going to make the award for this project if there is to be one. It could be on Lake Eerie as well, I should highlight. It would be in December and I think they plan to start the project next year. I think the board will make a resolution long before that.
(Peter) Now in this economy, are there serious pressures to move forward with the wind farm because there would be some financial benefits for the county?
(Hoffman) I don't know if there's pressures to move forward with the wind farm but there certainly are and I think that the board has adopted as part of the economic strategy for the county as adopted and subscribed to renewable and alternative energy. This, of course, is one form of it. Certainly what we hear so often from site locators looking to locate business two things come to the forefront. The cost of the taxes and the cost of electricity or utilities and certainly this would be one of those two things that we are concerned about and would like to make some progress on to reduce the cost of utilities.
(Peter) How many public hearings do you anticipate? Once a company comes forward there would probably be another public hearing to get the actual plan.
(Hoffman) There could be only one public hearing before a resolution. I can't predict what would go beyond that. I know Mr. Kessler, the President of NYPA has stated that Jefferson County and Oswego County that if you don't want it, we won't put it here. No comments have been stated to Wayne county like that so I can't predict what would follow after the hearing. Wednesday night we'd have to see what the input is from the public and what the board, as a whole, decides to do.
(Peter) What do you base your decision on? Will it be just the reaction at a public hearing, will it be a referendum? Will there be a survey of residents? How will you base the public reaction?
(Hoffman) Initially I think the implicit understanding is that It will be based on the input from the public Wednesday night and we'll go forward from there. There could be more deliberation as there could be some further action by the board, but none has been stated or contemplated just yet.
(Peter) And do people have enough information in the county to make an assessment right now?
(Hoffman) Perhaps they don't. That is exactly one of the issues. There isn't a lot of information out there. It's a nice concept in the eyes of some people, but there's just no development of it, no detail, no economic impact studies right now or impact on the environment. That's not known. At such time that there are proposals received and there may be, but right not there isn't a lot of information. There's really a lot of questions which I understand. The lake shore and Wayne County have some of our most valuable, beautiful parcels. In fact, in one town in particular I think the assessed value or taxable value of lakefront property is more than half for the whole town. So certainly one of the issues is the impact on assessed values. Tourism, the fishing industry.
(Peter) We'll be watching the hearing and I'll be there on Wednesday.
(Hoffman) Well good! I look forward to seeing you there.
(Peter) JAMES HOFFMAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE WAYNE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. Thanks for being with us today.
(Hoffman) Thanks for the interest.
(Peter) YOU CAN SEE THE WIND ENERGY STUDY COMMISSIONED BY THE NEW YORK STATE POWER AUTHORITY ON OUR WEB SITE. JUST GO TO W-X-X-I DOT O-R-G AND TYPE IN WIND FARM.
THIS WEEK, FORMER PRESIDENTS BUSH AND CLINTON TOURED HAITI, REMINDING PEOPLE THE RECOVERY EFFORT IS FAR FROM OVER FOLLOWING A DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE IN JANUARY. DR. JEAN JOSEPH, A SURGEON AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER, IS PLANNING A RETURN TRIP TO THE COUNTRY – HE’S BEEN THERE ONCE ALREADY. THAT WAS JUST A FEW DAYS AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE HIT. DR. JOSEPH SAT DOWN WITH WXXI’S CARLET CLEARE TO TALK ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE.
(Dr. Jean Joseph) There were people in need and we jumped in and got busy right away to start working.
(Carlet) And what did you go to do?
(Dr. Joseph) We had a team of 8 providers. To be anesthesia or doctors a gynecologist and we were there effectively providing care. Most of it was quake related, but we were there providers of care for the people in that region. The hospital they had went down, and the number of physicians, don't forget, this happened at four in the afternoon, before 5:00. So many people were in their offices working and a lot of these people are dead. A lot of the doctors in Haiti are gone. So we were effective providing primary care also and providing quake related care. I saw people that had fractured legs for several weeks and came into us at that time. We were right there in the middle of the epicenter of the quake so people came to us to receive care and also chronic problems came along as well. We were staffing a hospital, so there were several groups who had gone before us so we were doing a rotation and there was a nursing school that survived the quake, and that school was transforming to our hospital, makeshift operating rooms, all of that we put together, and while my team was there, we put together a field hospital. The field hospital, we were well equipped and did a lot of stuff to help the Haitian people.
(Carlet) How long were you there?
(Dr. Joseph) I was there for about 8 days. We left Rochester on a Thursday and we came back the following Saturday and, so about 8 days. Every team was doing weekly rotations; we worked with Intervol and in partnership with Notre Dame, there is a mission in Haiti where they are actively seeking health care providers to take part in these rotations to provide care for these people. As mentioned, at this point in time, there is no further quake related care being given, directly quake related, some chronic quake type problems, but primary care is being given to these people as well, so most of us go for about week at a time. Some people stay longer based on what they can do.
(Carlet) At what point did you know that you needed to go or you wanted to go to help out?
(Dr. Joseph) Fairly immediately. In fact, I was asked that question and fortunately there were several, the response around the world was very heartening. All over the world, people were moved, and people like ourselves here, we have the skills, we can help, and it was hard to sit on your hands and not be moved to do something and go help, so immediately, I started to plan it and some colleagues who heard that I was planning such a trip, they immediately called me, I did not have to really contact anyone, people just volunteered themselves, so I was able to put a team together very short time, we just had to wait our turn in that rotation and we went down. So it was an immediate decision, we knew that we wanted to help when we were witnessing the devastation, which was beyond belief, in a country as poor as Haiti, who suffered so much devastation in the past, so we knew there was a need and we wanted to be part of the relief efforts.
(Carlet) At what point did you say, when you got there, whoa, there is a greater need than my hands can help?
(Dr. Joseph) You know, in the morning, when we woke up, there were two-to-three hundred people lined up in front of our compound, and most of us just went to work, constantly working. We were triaging patients, deciding who needed to have a dressing change from prior surgeries that were done, and who needed to have some corrective surgery from the quake, or who had a problem that we could address, based on the skill set of the team, so we were working constantly, the surgeons were busy, anesthesia was busy, OBGYN, I mean we had one OBGYN doctor who was providing care for all women that showed up and they were quite busy, and with deliveries being done in the middle of the night, so we were working non-stop, so we really didn't think of it, we were touching one life at a time, we could not impact a large number of people, but those who were there, who showed up every day, we were able to care for them. And our philosophy was really, as a physician, the impact you have is always one-on-one, on the patient you are talking to or caring for, as opposed to a large group of people, but as the analogy goes, to the starfish that's on the shore that you throw back in the water, you make a big difference in that starfish's life, so we believe we made a difference in those people's lives, there were little kids who came, we saw a kid who came unresponsive and dehydrated and our team resuscitated that kid, and like I discussed with you, the people we delivered during the night saw them, likely would have died were we not there, so we did not at any point say, whoa, we just kept going and took it on, and we felt, it was very satisfying to be part of that, and I thank the people who were most grateful that we were there, and it was an amazing experience for me, for all of us.
(Carlet) What was the real story that people at home who were watching CNN, looking online, seeing all the pictures, or on the television and newspapers and reading about the devastation that was in Haiti, what was the real story that people at home might not have gotten if they weren't actually there firsthand?
(Dr. Joseph) The suffering that the people are experiencing, I don't think that can be put into words on the television screen. When you're there, you really sense the suffering and feel it and you want to be a part of the relief effort, and many of us, who were there, are arranging to go back to the rotations to keep helping, and for us, it’s a long term affair, because the needs are there. To the physician that survived the earthquake for example, his house likely is down and so is his office, and to start over, where does he go? The bank? The bank is in rubble. So, all those things that will be with Haiti for a long time, and that's why we're committed to provide some help as for those of us in medicine, and there are many others disciplines, some engineering groups that have gone down there, lending a hand as well. The other concern in the long term, that certainly is there as well, surrounding those tents that you see, certainly they get flooded, and gives me goosebumps thinking about some of these people being washed away, because some of Haiti, a lot of where those tent cities are set up, they are below sea level, and you're talking about people who have one leg, people who got their legs or one of their limbs amputated, and that's one of the problems, again, that the country faces within for the foreseeable future. A lot of the young folks do have some disabilities and they're not equipped to handle that. Another aspect of it is, people with mental health problems and what the impact of what this earthquake has done to them, while we were there, this little girl that we were caring for, she had suffered a head injury. She came in, we were assessing her wound and she had a seizure, and we wanted to observe her after caring for her, observe over night. So we kept her, brought her into our compound to stay with us, because we wanted to keep her very close so if she seizes again, we can medicate her accordingly, but she refused, she would not sleep, until we took her outside to her tent, where there was no block, no cement over her head, and she was comfortable to fall asleep, so there is all aspects of it, the fear that people have and having suffered a number of aftershocks, the psychological impact of this disaster has yet to be address.
(Peter) DR. JEAN JOSEPH, TALKING WITH WXXI’S CARLET CLEARE. WE’VE GOT MORE VIDEO FROM HIS TRIP ON OUR WEB SITE. W-X-X-I DOT O-R-G. SEARCH FOR HAITI. AND ON TUESDAY AT NINE, P-B-S FRONTLINE REPORTS FROM HAITI – EXAMINING THE SCALE OF THE DISASTER AND THE ILL-COORDINATED RELIEF EFFORTS. THAT’S PBS FRONTLINE: THE QUAKE, TUESDAY NIGHT AT NINE ON WXXI-TV. IT’S TIME NOW FOR THE BUSINESS SECTION WITH THE DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE.
(Peter) Matt Daneman, Business Reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle, thanks for being with us today.
(Daneman) Peter, always a pleasure.
(Peter) It seems like whenever you're here, we're talking about the latest unemployment figures, they're back, what do they show?
(Daneman) Glass half full, glass half empty, it all depends on whether you've got a job or not, really. For February, for the Rochester area, unemployment rate was about 8.7 percent, roughly what the jobless rate was in January, so is it a sign of finally bottoming out? Too early to say, but we've got at least some indication that things aren't getting worse, which is nice for the communities to the left and right of us, Buffalo and Syracuse, also, jobless rates were pretty steady for February as well too, so we're at least, hopefully in some signs that some, that things could be leveling off, and then we can start hoping and looking to see the recovery and the jobs growth, the job numbers show, sort of what we've been seeing for many many months now, any growth going on in education and health care, manufacturing continues to be hammered by job losses, and job losses across a number of business segments, but those are the three that always stand out.
(Peter) Paychex came out with their report this week, what are they telling us?
(Daneman) Paychex has always a really good bell-weather, sort of business conditions, since they deal with a lot of particularly small and mid-sized businesses with their payroll services and other business services, Paychex is still not out of the recession and thus a lot of businesses aren't as well too. They saw their revenues down for the most recent quarter, they saw their profits, still profitable, but their profits decline again, and they're still looking at seeing just a lot of headwinds from the recession in terms of job creation, new hiring, all the stuff that would lead to Paychex making a lot more money and being back on the growth side again, they're still in essence, when talking to their chief financial officer, their business strategy is still just to sort of muscle through, to wait for business conditions to turn around, for interest rates to go up, but for now, the payroll company is just sort of huddling down and taking its beating from the recession.
(Peter) And considering they're so tied to other companies' work forces, are they coping well?
(Daneman) They are coping, I guess you could say they are coping well in that they've not had to do, and they aren't planning to do any of the sorts of things we've seen so many other major companies do, like restructurings with lots of layoffs and things of that nature. They had done pay freezes in 2009, that pay freeze has been lifted, they had done a suspension of the 401K match in 2009, that still is in place, but its being evaluated, so in terms of whether they're, how they're coming out through the recession, it could be a heck of a lot worse.
(Peter) Health reform has passed on Capitol Hill, again, what does it mean for business?
(Daneman) You know what, that's the $64,000 question. There are a lot of provisions, and a lot of different opinions out there, in talking to Blue Cross, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, you know here is somebody who should know the answer to that right off the top of their head, and they're saying, we just don't know yet, it all depends on how the policies actually shakes out into regulations. There are plenty of provisions that could have some benefits for businesses, such as tax breaks for small businesses to help them offer health care coverage to their employees. At the same time, you've got lots of questions about how this bill is going to be paid for, which could result in higher taxes on businesses and on individuals, there’s just so many issues going around right now, it seems like a cop-out to say, we don't know yet, but the fact of the matter is, we just don't know yet.
(Peter) And 20 seconds, where do they turn for information, where does a business turn to find out how to navigate?
(Daneman) That's a really good question as well too, the fact of the matter is, right now, we're still at this stage where we, the actual, the means that this policy will be rolled out is still being hammered out, still being crafted, in terms of actual regulations as well too. So you've got all sorts of organizations like the Chamber of Commerce that are keeping an eye on this, but it’s just, it’s really premature to say.
(Peter) MATT DANEMAN, BUSINESS REPORTER FOR THE DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE. THAT CONCLUDES THIS EDITION OF NEED TO KNOW. WATCH WXXI-TV ON THURSDAY NIGHT AT EIGHT FOR POINT BY POINT, A TELEVISION FORUM ON MAYORAL CONTROL OF CITY SCHOOLS. YOU CAN SUBMIT SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR OUR PANELISTS RIGHT ON OUR WEB SITE – W-X-X-I DOT O-R-G.
I’M PETER IGLINSKI, HAVE A GREAT WEEK.