by Terry Duffy
Wind energy again returned to discussion at the Porter Town Board's regular session Monday night.
But this time, the board discussed what are now becoming alternatives to its earlier proposals for wind energy units in the town.
Town Supervisor Mert Wiepert reported at the session that while wind energy is still on the table, other options also are being considered.
"Town engineers are developing more specifications on these," he said, telling attendees that now solar panels are also being considered.
What's going on here?
Over the past few years Porter, like other communities, has been considering construction of wind energy units, with grant funding availed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, on various town properties to help it offset energy costs, perhaps even generate profit. But while some communities moved to actually build and operate wind turbine units in their municipalities, Porter has yet to do so.
Provided with the enticement of $320,000 in NYSERDA application grant funding, the town has been considering installation of the 10 kilowatt-hour wind energy units at three town properties - Porter Town Hall, the town Highway Department garage on Braley Road and at town lands on Balmer Road. After much debate, an application was filed last year with NYSERDA and many felt construction of the projects would be under way and the units nearing completion with an anticipated March 31 deadline date to be fully operational. That, however, has yet to happen.
Problem is the town has yet to fully finalize matters with regards to siting and completed planning for construction of the units, not to mention its actually soliciting of any requests for proposals. Disagreements over siting have been the primary reason given by the town for delays, but so has receiving final authorization for government agencies at one location. The town opted to remove first the Town Hall site as questions over available land area came into play. At the Highway Department garage site, the Town Board indicated it was being removed from consideration after opposition heard from residents in an earlier public hearing and at board meetings last year came into play.
Porter in recent months narrowed its choice to property owned by the town on Balmer Road across from CWM Chemical Services LLC. Discussed at past meetings has been construction of up to three 10 kW wind energy units at the location. But questions have also come over their impact from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, government overseers of neighboring properties on the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works lands. The Corps revealed concerns with U.S. Army operations nearby and has yet to give its final approval. Faced with the March 31 deadline, the town has now moved to considering options, namely solar panels.
Town Engineer Dave Brittain of CRS Associates indicated as much Monday when asked the status of the wind energy issue. He said the town still has its original application on file with NYSERDA for consideration of the wind energy units at the Town Hall, Highway Garage and Balmer Road sites. "All original sites are under consideration," said Brittain.
But faced with deadlines and uncertainty, he said the town was exploring the solar panels option. Brittain added that whatever the town chooses, it would have to request more time from NYSERDA. "We will have to file an extension," said Brittain. "We do not have a date confirmed but it looks like it will be the end of June."
Brittain told the board at Monday's session that project siting and environmental reviews for the Balmer Road location are under way, a NYSERDA time extension is being submitted and amendments for solar panels are now being considered.
He closed, however, by saying the Town Board needed to act swiftly. "We expect a final decision on this by next meeting," said Brittain. "We need to get this under way."
In other news from the session:
•The Town Board approved its reorganizing of members to the town Recreation Commission, effective Jan. 1, 2012. They include: Debbie Parker, for a term to Dec. 31, 2018; Linda White, to Dec. 31, 2017; Amanda Selbert, to Dec. 31, 2016; Amy Freirmuth, to Dec. 31, 2015; Trudy Sanderson, to Dec. 31, 2014; William Leggett, to Dec. 31, 2013; and George Mayer, to Dec. 31, 2012.
•The board received a report for the Town Justice Department showing $67,955.75 in gross revenue collected from fines for the 12 months of 2011. Net revenue to the town was $36,756.75.
•Town Building/Code Enforcement Officer Roy Rogers told the board that a lengthy visit to Heritage Manor in Ransomville highlighted his January inspection report. Overall, he offered the facility very high marks telling the board, "The inspection was very involved, due to a large number of issues. But the building is not in bad condition. There were some write-ups for housekeeping and other minor stuff. But the staff is very cooperative in modifying and correcting things."