by Terry Duffy
The Town of Porter opened 2011 with more discussion on a growing interest item among residents, as recent proposals for windmills in the town occupied the leadoff portion of the Town Board's Jan. 10 regular meeting.
The topic of wind energy - growing in interest and popularity of late among private landowners, municipalities and utility companies - resurfaced with new curiosities and some concerns aired by residents. The town first considered the issue last January following an offer by wind energy consultant Tom Fleckenstein of Niagara Wind and Solar of Niagara Falls to pursue government grant funding with an eye toward possible construction of windmills at Porter Town Hall and at the Town Highway Department garage on Braley Road.
Last year, the Town Board approved pursuing up to $319,000 in application grants authorized under the 2009 federal stimulus bill and administered through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but as of yet it has not finalized the application process. Despite availability of full government grant funding, various board members and Supervisor Mert Wiepert expressed reservations at past sessions on the wind energy proposals. Issues include possible conflicts with town code and variances to questions over the wind energy systems' performance, their durability and long-term maintenance issues.
In fact the wind energy issue on the whole in Porter has seen its share of interest and skepticism among residents over the past year. Last fall Youngstown residents and the Niagara County Legislature had questions over state Power Authority plans for windmills off Niagara County shorelines in Lake Ontario. And Porter residents of late are asking questions of the latest proposals for Town Hall and the highway garage, citing cost issues and maintenance concerns, among others.
But board members also heard new curiosity and a desire for the facts by attending residents. "I'd really like to see a public informational meeting on this," said Youngstown resident Wendy Swearingen.
Fleckenstein, who provided a detailed response in the Jan. 8 Sentinel to Porter resident Mark Daul's earlier letter, recommended the town, at least for the time being, take a step back on the matter. He told the Town Board of a new Remote Metering Bill, introduced in the State Assembly and expected in the State Senate that provides for the siting of wind turbines in distant areas with financial inducements to allow connections of units for service to the power grid. "It gives you another choice, would give you another option, say if you wanted one on Balmer Road," said Fleckenstein.
He recommended that for now, it would be best for the board to table the matter to enable the town to better fully investigate the wind energy options, particularly with regards to turbines, and ongoing questions the board has had over sizes and outputs - 10kw or 20kw. Fleckenstein also said it also would be to the town's benefit for the Remote Metering legislation to be passed and signed into law. And he said the time for completion of the request for proposal of 10 NYSERDA grants is March 2012, so there was sufficient time for the town to wait for a final decision on this draft.
The matter closed with Wiepert and the board conveying their intent to have a fully detailed informational session on the wind energy issue, with participation and input requested of Fleckenstein, but no date was announced that night.
In other news from the session:
•The board, addressing some unfinished business from its earlier reorganization meeting, approved a resolution to retain Bernie Rotella as grant writer for 2011. The board had tabled the appointment earlier. As part of its agreeing the board stipulated that Rotella would serve on a month-to-month basis at $800 per month with 2 percent commission for a maximum of $5,000, with the commission to be paid when a grant check is received. The board also requested Rotella to attend its monthly board meetings.
•The board appointed John "Duffy" Johnston as chair of the town Zoning Board of Appeals for 2011.
•The board approved Councilman Larry White to serve as the supervisor's liaison to the state Greenway Commission.
•The board approved the town's SPCA contract for a three-year term. Cost for years 2011 and 2012 would be $1,065.07 per month; for 2013, the cost would be $1,118.32 per month. "It's not unreasonable when you consider Porter does not have its own dog catcher," commented Town Attorney Mike Dowd in response to board members' concern over cost. The contract continues the $75 cost for animal pickups after hours or on weekends.
•The board authorized Town Highway Superintendent Scott Hillman to proceed with purchase of a new medium duty dump truck with plowing equipment at a cost of $147,000, as budgeted.
•The board approved modifying its recently enacted town Dog Law to conform to the numbering sequence and Jan. 7 filing date with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. The law was changed and is now known as Local Law No. 1-2011.
•Wrapping up, continuing with an earlier zoning issue regarding storage of boat trailers and recreational vehicles at residences, Town Board members were apprised by resident Pat Gray of Youngstown Estates that comments heard and a petition presented at the board's Jan. 3 reorganization meeting were not reflective of the Youngstown Estates Homeowners Association. Board members had no comment on the issue.