Minerva A new wood-boiler heat system for town buildings was approved by a three-to-two vote after animated discussion at the town meeting Oct. 6.
Projections Highway Superintendent Bruce McGinn has seen estimate a 71 percent savings on energy expenses compared to current, fuel heating.
The total project will cost $68,960, with the motion passed approving up to $70,000 for the system from the town’s fund balance.
The costs include a wood shed to house the boilers and wood to be burned, along with space to get some of the highway department’s equipment under cover and out of the weather.
Council member Elizabeth LaMay was concerned that the project wasn’t budgeted, and the town’s citizens may feel that the council was hasty in moving the project forward because of that.
LaMay asked if greener options might be possible, like solar water heating or geothermal energy.
Town Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey responded that wood is a locally-sourced, renewable energy resource, so it is green.
Though Corey understood that the project not being accounted for in the budget makes approving it more difficult, the heating system will save the town and taxpayers a lot of money, which will make it easier to work within the state 2 percent tax cap next year.
McGinn said that because of the 2 percent tax cap, the budget the town has now will be more or less the budget they have for a few years. If they can save money they’ve budgeted this year in energy costs, then the money saved is freed up to move wherever else it’s needed.
Council Member Stephen McNally said that with the cost of fuel rising quickly, a projected 10-year cycle for the energy savings covering the cost of purchase and installation for the new systems may be shorter.
If fuel costs are higher, then greater savings will be had every winter, returning the town’s investment and saving the taxpayers money for the projected 20- or 25-year life of the wood boilers, said McNally.
The board should look at this as an investment, not an expense, said McNally.
“For the next 20 years, we’re going to save money,” he said.