Tonawanda News

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June 20, 2013

East Hill picks grant recipients

Tonawanda News — For the second year, the East Hill Foundation will donate $50,000 to non-profit organizations in North Tonawanda. 

The foundation moved last year to River Road from Williamsville in a deal formed between the philanthropic organization and the city. The arrangement requires East Hill to distribute the annual payout to local not-for-profits under a payment in lieu of taxes scenario. It will also open up the property, centered on the Niagara River, for use by other nonprofits groups. 

A finding last summer by the city assessor had deemed the organization a for-profit entity, an issue East Hill contested and that may have ended in a court. The disagreement caused a brief stir as the organization was preparing to move to the waterfront property it owned but repurposed for the foundation. 

East Hill is run by the family of Wilson Greatbatch, made famous for his invention of the pacemaker and holder of hundreds of other patents. But the threat of litigation challenging the for-profit designation led to the PILOT arrangement. 

The foundation had been paying $63,000 in taxes each year as the Island Street Boatyard Company, though it sold most of its wares in 2012 prior to the change in the property’s usage. Instead, in addition to the $50,000 in grants to be doled out each year, they will pay the city $10,000 in annual property taxes. 

“That was an agreement that I forged with them,” said Shawn Nickerson, city attorney. “Legally they were not bound to pay taxes. That’s why we worked out this PILOT program. They’re certainly living up to their end of the deal and it’s a great foundation to be housed in North Tonawanda. There’s definitely a need.” 

Nickerson said the foundation’s board of directors approved eight grants earlier this month as part of the PILOT deal. Fifteen groups had applied. The funding, however, will not be doled out until 2014. 

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