by Terry Duffy
On a night dominated by bitter cold and snow on the outside, there wasn't all that much going-on "on the inside" at Monday's Porter Town Board session.
In fact, absences were plenty, including Town Supervisor Mert Wiepert who was out that night with medical issues, Councilman Larry White, Town Assessor Susan Driscoll, Town Building Inspector Roy Rogers, Town Engineer Dave Britain, plus the town's grant writer, tax collector, historian and recreation commission members. And just a handful of the town's residents bothered to show up.
"There's more news on who's not here than who is," remarked Deputy Supervisor and Town Councilman Tom Baia, who was filling in for Wiepert.
But that's not to say that nothing happened.
The Town of Porter did address an issue that's become a very active discussion item in other northern Niagara County communities, that of permitting lagoons intended for the storage of equate - i.e. the remnants of organic waste processing - in the town.
Porter gave the idea a firm thumbs down rather than let it fester.
With very little preliminary discussion on the town level and following zero comments at Monday's public hearing, attending members Baia, Jeff Baker and Joe Fleckenstein unanimously passed Local Law No. 1, 2014 "providing for the regulation of anaerobic digestion facilities located within its boundaries."
The measure defines anaerobic digestion facilities as follows: "Any facility which accepts manure, food waste, fats, oils, greases, sludges resulting from the treatment process at wastewater treatment plants (biosolids), energy crops, glycerin, silage and wastes from the production of ethanol and bio-diesel for the purpose of treating such materials by process of anaerobic digestion for the purpose of producing biogas and digestate. ..."
Arguing that "Commercial, non-agricultural, anaerobic digestion facilities pose a potential threat to the health and safety of residents ..." the measure goes on read, "No person shall construct, create or cause to be constructed or created, any anaerobic digestion facility within the Town of Porter other than those facilities defined and permitted by New York State Public Service Law § 66-J."
The measure does provide that "A manure lagoon as defined in the Town of Porter Zoning Law for the treatment of only animal waste is not included ..."
Explaining its impacts on agriculture, Town Attorney Mike Dowd said, "It does not affect manure use or animal wastes generated on farms for disposal. ... It does not affect agricultural operations."
Thus Porter avoids an issue that has and continues to generate controversy elsewhere.
In Lewiston, a very preliminary plan unearthed last fall for construction of an equate storage lagoon on a private property on Porter Center Road led to firestorm among immediate neighbors, unenthusiastic responses by the Town Board and continued leeriness at Town Hall. In fact there has been virtually no discussion since by Quasar Energy of Ohio, an equate processor with a facility in Wheatfield, who first began eying Lewiston following an initial green light by the Niagara County Planning Board.
And speaking of Wheatfield, the matter of equate continues. On Monday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m., the Wheatfield Town Board is holding a public information meeting at Town Hall with Quasar reps who will present and discuss the company's latest design proposal, this time for an accessory equate storage tank on Liberty Drive.
In other news from Monday's session:
•Town Highway Superintendent Scott Hillman reported that the harsh winter has resulted in near-complete exhaustion in the town's supply of road salt. "We have purchased 100 percent of our 2013-14 salt commitment," said Hillman. "There is currently a shortage of road salt in our area."
Hillman said he ordered an additional 300 tons or 20 percent more, but was still awaiting delivery. As of Monday, he said the town Highway Department had 200 tons remaining, and while town roads were still being plowed, salt was being used "sparingly."
"I ask for the public to bear with us on this limited salting," said Hillman.
•Councilman Joe Fleckenstein closed the session with a proposal for the Town Board to hold its work sessions at 6 p.m. Mondays, before the regularly scheduled board meeting. It passed unanimously and takes effect next month.