by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Wheatfield Town Board on Monday heard from both its auditor, Drescher & Malecki, and from an Ohio-based energy group hoping to open a waste-to-energy plant on Liberty Drive.
Auditor Thomas Malecki gave a positive report on town finances for 2011.
Alan Johnson, vice president for project management, at quasar energy group, and Kristen Savard, a site designer with Advanced Design of Lewiston, discussed the proposed energy project that would be located on five acres of property just off Williams Road. The company's proposal goes back to the town Planning Board in August for site plan approval. A second facility is planned in West Seneca.
The quasar energy group designs, builds, owns and operates anaerobic digestion facilities using U.S. components to produce renewable energy.
About six to eight tankers per day would come to the site with food waste, manure, biosolids and crop waste (about 50,000 tons a year) that normally would be incinerated or hauled to landfills. The material goes into an enclosed biomass receiving tank for digestion. Methane gas produced will provide enough energy for about 600 homes through National Grid, Johnson said. What is left after digestion will go to a local farmer for use as natural fertilizer.
Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said he had recently visited one of the quasar facilities in Ohio.
"I was surprised and impressed. There was virtually no odor I could detect ... even in close proximity," he said.
What odor he did detect smelled not of rotted waste, but more of an oily machine shop odor. The closed system had both noise and odor monitoring, he added.
Johnson said the local plant will provide one to three jobs and operate from about 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
"We work really hard to be good neighbors," he said.
•In reporting on the audit, Malecki said only the town's fire department fund "needs a little work." It's still in a deficit position, but that deficit is the lowest in four years.
As for the general fund, all the factors were "quite positive" because the town's sales tax revenues are up significantly and expenses were down.
"The accounting records are in very, very good shape," he said, noting there were a lot fewer findings than in the past.
Malecki said a full financial report in draft form will be coming to the town in about a week.
He cautioned the board about maintaining fund balances when budgeting for 2013. Costs for things like state mandates, retirement, and health insurance continue to rise, while the only revenue that has risen is sales tax, he pointed out.
Supervisor Robert Cliffe, who entered office with the town facing a major deficit, said some projects that have been put off will be taken into consideration when planning for 2013, but the town will be cautious about spending just because it has a little money.
"We have to be careful, for all the reasons Tom spoke of, or we will end up back in the pile we were in," he said.
•Rich Donner, water/sewer director, said probably due to the hot, dry weather, more water is being used in Wheatfield than ever more. He asked residents to cut back a bit on their water use to help both the town and the county system.
•Several residents expressed concern about a property owner at the corner of Williams Road and Cayuga Drive who is adding fill to raise the level of his property. Neighbors are worried that if there is a bad winter, runoff from the property, which is becoming considerably higher than their own, will cause flooding.
Both Highway Superintendent Art Kroening and Building Inspector Joe Caturia are to look into the matter.
•Kroening reported the David Drive drainage project should be complete in another month, weather permitting.
•Arlene Mante, seniors director, reminded residents that the county provides a lawyer for senior citizens from 11 a.m. to noon the first Wednesday of every month at the community center.
•The Town Board will hold a special meeting/work session at 7:30 p.m. July 30 to review proposals from both the YMCA and YWCA for the use of the youth center/gym during hours when not used for town programs.
•The next regular Town Board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13.
•The board scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at the community center to discuss planned unit development rezoning for Wheatfield Lakes Patio Homes where some residents want decreases in the size of common areas that would allow them to build fences and decks.