by Terry Duffy
The Town of Porter Board moved further on finalizing alternative solar energy options eyed for two town locations, at this month's regular meting.
It follows an earlier decision by the board to drop wind energy proposals at three locations that were seen as unfeasible as well as unpopular with residents. With the solar panels seen as the better option, the town moved on bids and is now working on modified grant funding arrangements with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Locations will be at Porter Hall on Creek Road and the town Highway Department garage complex on Braley Road. Both were locations for the earlier wind turbines that the town went on to reject, as well as a third site on Balmer Road on town lands across from CWM Chemical Services LLC.
Town engineer Dave Brittain of CRA Associates informed the board that of four bids received over the last month he was recommending awarding those submitted by solar panel contractor O'Connell Electric of Buffalo for installations at the Town Hall and highway garage sites.
O'Connell's Town Hall bid is for ground-mounted panels on the west side of Town Hall fronting Creek Road with a total rated system capacity of 37.44 kilowatts. The base bid is $87,490, with a change order of $55,000.
The firm's bid for the highway garage site is for two rows roof-mounted panels on the back portion of the building with a total rated system capacity of 40.32 kilowatts. Its base bid is $99,200 with a change order of $47,000.
Brittain said he was pursuing the grant funding changes with NYSERDA from wind power to solar. "Their approval is contingent that no time extension would occur beyond Aug. 1," said Brittain. "We need to award the project to O'Connell."
Brittain said a town provision being prepared by Town Attorney Mike Dowd to NYSERDA would acknowledge the time restrictions, and are intended to help minimize any risk to the town in the event the project is not completed by Aug. 1. Porter had already seen an earlier wind turbine grant funding pact with NYSERDA expire as it let the proposal linger and had not met a March 31 NYSERDA deadline on project building and operation. Britain recommended the town award the work to O'Connell, contingent that it be executed within a 90-day period or before Aug. 1 and also on NYSERDA acceptance. "No work done beyond Aug. 1 would be covered by NYSERDA," he said, adding the purpose of Dowd's provision would be to minimize town risk. Brittain added that NYSERDA indicated its acceptance of the timeline plan via an earlier email to him.
After hearing his updates Town Board members went on to approve the two bids on votes of 4 in favor and one abstention on both. Those came from Councilman Joe Fleckenstein who said he cast abstentions only due to a relative's involvement in the alternative energy industry. "I'm not against wind or solar," he added.
In other news from the session:
•Following a public hearing that saw no comments, the board went on to unanimously approve amending Local Law No. 2 of 1969. The measure now requires installation of meter pits for water hookups of more than 300 feet from the road to residences, and places the cost on property owners.
"The reason we're amending it is because it (water hookups) was unclear on the use of meter pits" as well as the materials used, said Scott Hillman, Town Highway and Drainage superintendent.
•Town Supervisor Mert Wiepert reported that with Porter's franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable set to expire in September of 2013, he wanted the town's cable committee and Dowd to review it for any changes. Fleckenstein, who is on the committee with Councilman Tom Baia, said he'd like for Time Warner to start by guaranteeing cable access to all town residents, something it currently does not do.
"They haven't spent a dime here other than for maintenance," said Fleckenstein. He told board members he has sent inquiries to Time Warner rep Sharon Hanson but has yet to receive a response.
Time Warner currently is the town's sole provider, supplying all cable, telephone and Internet services to Porter residences and businesses. Competitor Verizon Fios' service has yet to reach the town.
•The board unanimously approved Porter's 2012 sewer agreement with the Town of Lewiston Water Pollution Control Center. The new pact calls for an increase of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons for users, from $2.75 to $3.25 per 1,000 gallons.
•The town assessor's office reported that it expects to have all updated computer files for the 2012 assessment rolls complete and ready for review town property owners by May 1. May 22 has been set for grievance day by the town for any disputed findings.
The assessor's office further reported it received notification from the state that Porter is now required to furnish proof income from farmers in the town who are claiming an agricultural exemption.
•The town reported it will be holding a town-wide tire drop-off day, open to Town of Porter residents only, on Saturday, April 28, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The drop-off will be held at the Youngstown Red Brick School village center, 240 Lockport St. Tires with rims will be accepted.
•Town Supervisor's Assistant Norm Ault informed that the town is now looking for area seniors, age 90 and older, who may be interested in participating in the town's Founder's Day celebration June 1 to 3. Ault said that as part of its celebrations Porter will be recognizing those residents age 90 and older. Interested residents are asked to contact Town Historian Sue Dietz at 745-7548.