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Selectmen presented draft pellet boiler warrant article


November 28, 2012
LITTLETON — A draft warrant article was presented to the Board of Selectmen on Monday. The article would fund a new wood pellet heating system for the town garage and fire station. Eventually, the police station could use the proposed pellet boiler for heating.

Energy Conservation Committee Chairman Tony Ilacqua presented the draft article to the Selectmen. The draft language would have the town spend "an amount not to exceed $130,000 in order to design, engineer, permit, purchase, and install a wood pellet heating system including appurtenances, for the Town Garage and Fire House. Furthermore, to authorize the Selectmen to apply for accept, and expend, without further Town Meeting action, grants or other funds that are available for such purpose."

According to the draft document, the proposed expenditure would have a tax impact of $0.17.

Ilacqua referred to wood pellet heating as a "tried and true" heat source. "They've been doing this in Europe for 20 years," Ilacqua said. "This isn't something we dreamed up," he continued.

Several local organizations use pellet boilers now. The system at the White Mountain School in Bethlehem has received praise from the committee. The school is saving about $55,000 a year over its previous fossil fuel heating system.

The committee met with several vendors and visited various sites that use wood pellet heating. The system can eliminate use of fossil fuels and dramatically reduce heating costs for buildings.

Ilacqua said that the committee received pricing proposals that ranged from $98,000 to $177,000. He said that the preferred system would cost about $123,000.

"This is local energy. This is local jobs," Ilacqua suggested.

Ilacqua informed the board that the committee estimates the proposal would save the town about $14,000 a year in fossil fuel costs. This means the proposed boiler would pay for itself in about eight years.

Chairperson of the Select Board Marghie Seymour sees virtue in using wood for heat. The proposed system would be "using much less expensive and more readily available fuel," she said.

Ilacqua said that the fire station would keep its existing oil boiler as a back-up. The system would kick in if the water heated by the pellet boiler fell to a certain temperature.

Dann, a member of the Energy Conversation Committee, said he was the lone dissenter on the draft proposal. He suggested the committee has not done sufficient research on using solar panels for energy. "Until we look into it, I can't sign on to this," he informed the board.

Brien Ward suggested that the town consider ways to spread out the cost of the system. He was concerned that one large payment may detract from pubic support for the pellet boiler. "This is a capital improvement," Ward said. Even with the suggestion, Ward said, "I think it's a good investment for the town."

Geothermal energy was also brought up at the meeting. Ilacqua said that, like solar, geothermal systems are expensive to install. Also, he did not believe that geothermal would offset current heating costs like the pellet boiler. Ilacqua said that geothermal systems can have expensive maintenance issues.

Ilacqua invited the public to the committee's meetings. Currently they meet on the second Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. in the town garage. At a date not yet known, a public presentation will provide the town with more information about the proposed system.

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