Office of Energy Development gets the go-ahead

By Erika Mahoney

February 22, 2013 Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 1:45 AM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Signs of disapproval scattered the audience as the Broome County Legislature approved the creation of the Office of Energy Development.

The signs, along with 200 signatures urging the legislators to take a closer look, didn't sway the majority.

On top of approval, legislators also agreed to send $100,000 in funding from their hotels and motels tax.

The office requires $200,000 a year. The other $100,000 will be funded through the Industrial Development Agency.

The IDA will provide a total of $200,000 over the next two years.

The office's goal, according to Broome County Executive Debbie Preston, is to research and offer ideas on cheaper energy solutions.

The operation has been in operation with two staff members since Jan. 2. This was possible without legislature approval through temporary salary funds outlined in the county budget.

Just last week, the office held a seminar for local businesses.

Some legislators say they have confidence in what the office will offer.

"They just had a seminar seven days ago, ten days ago," Broome County Chairman Jerry Marinich said. "They originally had a room for 65 people, not big enough. [They] went to 80 people, not big enough. They had to turn some businesses away from coming to that seminar, which tells me is it a duplicate of services, or is not everyone getting the information?"

Other legislators sided with those holding signs.

"To the extent this office is going to be involved in energy efficiency, we can do that in house," Broome County Minority Leader Dan D. Reynolds said. "You don't need to create an additional layer of government to do that."

Reynolds also added that he doesn't feel it is right to use taxpayer money for something that he says is promoting natural gas development.

One audience member from Citizen Action said his job now is to hold the office accountable.

Marinich said the legislature will review the office and if it isn't meeting their standards, they can always vote to pull the funding.