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Energy issues at top of Tuftonboro selectmen's agenda

April 29, 2010
TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro's Board of Selectmen held a hearing on April 26 to consider a proposal from the Jesse E. Lyman Company, a North Conway oil and alternative fuels business, to replace the heating system at the old Town Hall building with a central wood pellet heating system.

A grant of $29,000 is available to the town and Peter Donohoe, a representative from the company, presented detailed information on the technology.

Donohoe emphasized that the auto pellet system is not to be confused with a pellet stove, which is usually used as a supplement to an existing system. The proposed set up would replace the present boiler with a 110,000 BTU-an-hour hot water wood pellet boiler manufactured in Bethel, Maine.

The pellets are locally or regionally sourced and have lower carbon emissions than other fuels, for wood has a shorter cycle of renewal than fossil fuels. Donohoe said the pellets are an efficient, processed product that generates more heat than a wood burning stove.

It is self-cleaning, with a computer-controlled system that cleans the heat tubes, and service is only needed once a year, at which time it is vacuumed out and the components checked, just as they would be with an oil or propane system. The ashes only need to be emptied once a month.

Donohoe explained that the ash itself is completely biodegradable and can be applied to gardens, if desired.

When questioned about the cost, Donohoe said, without hesitation, that the equipment costs generally two to three times the cost of other systems, for the industry is just gaining a foothold in the states, whereas it is well underway in Europe. He added that in the long run, the consumer saves 20 percent over oil and 30 percent over propane.

Selectman Bill Stockman asked whether hard or soft wood is preferred. Donohoe responded that though hard wood is preferred for use in wood stoves, in this case, soft wood contains more lignin, which helps bind the pellet material together and yields more readily to compression, thereby creating a higher content pellet. The higher the soft wood content, the lighter the color of the pellets.

Fire Chief Adam Thompson asked about availability of parts – they come from Bethel, Maine and North Conway- and there was a question on the life expectancy of the boiler, which was given at around 25 years or more, depending on the moisture conditions.

The system is readily available and may be installed within a few weeks of ordering it. The board agreed to accept the terms of the grant and the $29,000. Codes Officer Jack Parsons will be attending a class on May 5 on the necessary record keeping.

Brittany Phelps, of the N.H. Municipal Energy Assistance Program, brought in the municipal greenhouse gas and energy use baseline for Tuftonboro compiled from data provided by Administrative Assistant Darlene McWhirter. The Energy Assistance Program is made possible through the N.H. Public Utilities Commission and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Fund.

After sitting in first on the presentation on the pellet heating system, she said that she was excited that the town was going to be replacing the old system, for energy use in the town buildings represents 72 percent of the town's total usage.

Phelps offered the selectmen an 11-page report to study and use in making decisions relating to energy usage, and said that in about a month, Clean Air Cool Planet would begin a building audit. The town's participation in the program will gain them further advocacy work in a category of their choosing, and the information gained can be used in applying for competitive grants.

Fire Rescue report

Fire Rescue Chief Thompson said the septic system work at the Mirror Lake station is finally underway after delays due to wet ground. He said that the crew quickly hit ledge but work is proceeding. The well casing will need to be raised, adding to the original estimated cost, and sealant will be applied to the concrete in the back wall.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) still has help available through the state's Emergency Management Performance Grants to assist local governments in enhancing and sustaining all-hazards emergency management capabilities. Thompson reported that Caleb Pike has researched the purchase of a generator for the police department and town offices. It would cost $15,500, but if the grant application is successful, that cost would be reduced by half to $7,750.

He has money left in his budget for part of that, but would still need $6,000. The selectmen expressed interest in seizing the opportunity for the discount, and will consider where the $6,000 would come from.

Thompson said that a generator supplied electricity to the students at Tuftonboro Central School on the day that electricity was out for more than two hours, causing the schools in Wolfeboro to close. He said that you could see the smiles on the faces of the kids playing outside disappear when they realized that there was electricity to keep the school going, but the system worked.

Codes Officer Parsons said that he has received about 11 packets of proposals from architects for the new fire station on the Gould property. The selectmen will meet to review and discuss them to narrow down the field.

The question of whether to put the Dearborn property up for sale will be put before the planning board and conservation commission.

The next selectmen's meeting is scheduled for May 3, at 7 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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