Alleging that Siemens Industry Inc. failed to live up to terms of a co-generation agreement to supply power to two Monroe County buildings, the county is looking to collect more than $1 million.
The dispute dates to an agreement the county and Siemens first struck in 2002 under which Siemens was supposed to run an East Henrietta Road power plant that supplied electricity to the county’s 111 Westfall Road office tower and Monroe Community Hospital.
The Westfall Road building houses the county’s departments of health and social services. The hospital is a 566-bed, skilled-nursing facility that cares for individuals whose complex cases are more challenging than the area’s private nursing homes can typically handle.
The idea behind the contract was that the power Siemens would produce at an East Henrietta Road power plant at the former Iola complex would cost less than power supplied from the grid.
The county sold the Iola complex to developer Anthony Costello in 2004. The site, bounded by Westfall and East Henrietta roads and the Erie Canal—now houses a Costco warehouse store and the CityGate shopping plaza. The shuttered but still-standing yellow brick power plant—noticeable by its smokestack—sits at the plaza’s entrance.
The county and Siemens renewed the co-generation deal a number of times over two decades. The county states in court papers that it ended the arrangement in 2020 after determining that buying electricity from the grid at retail prices would be cheaper than paying Siemens.
In a Feb. 3 letter to Siemens client service manager Thomas Broderick, Chief Deputy County Attorney Laura Smith complained that Siemens’ alleged years-long failure to properly maintain a key transformer made the transformer too dangerous to run, which in turn rendered the co-generation facility inoperable.
“Without the transformer, not only were the County Facilities unable to permanently move
to the grid, but they were also cut off from accessing the grid in the event of an emergency,” Smith wrote.
To keep lights on at the hospital and the Westfall Road office tower, the county rented three 2,000-kilowatt, portable diesel generators. The rented generators, which had to be run 24/7, required constant monitoring by county staff until a new generator was installed in August 2021, she stated.
During the pandemic the county stored mRNA COVID vaccines—which had to be kept at sub-zero temperatures—at the Westfall Road tower, making uninterrupted power doubly important for the building, Smith added.
The county and Siemens were apparently not able to come to terms between February, when Smith sent the letter, and June, and the county filed a state-court action accusing Siemens of failing to properly maintain and monitor the transformer.
The court action does not specifically say what damages the county seeks. The Feb. 3 letter lists costs totaling $1.2 million that the county says it incurred as a result of the transformer’s failure.
Citing Siemens’ Rochester division’s ownership by Germany-based Siemens AG, Siemens had the case removed to federal court in Rochester July 14, where it is scheduled for mandatory mediation.
Siemens officials could not be immediately reached.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].