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Chester: New pellet boiler & a forest nearby to help supply it

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

The Town of Chester celebrated its new wood pellet boiler, a $50,000 donation from the Peckham Family Foundation, and the purchase of the 104-acre Cunningham Community Forest at a Nov. 29 ribbon-cutting.

The biomass boiler, which will burn wood pellets, and its steam accumulator thermal storage are being touted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as a demonstration project for other communities statewide, Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett said.

The Cunningham Community Forest sits behind the town hall in a field that holds solar panels which help generate electricity for the building. Officials hope that the forest can eventually be logged, with wood harvested used to heat the boiler. Walking trails are also planned.

Chester received a $400,000 state demonstration grant to help the town purchase a wood pellet boiler that will provide 90% of the heat for the town hall. Chronicle photos/Gordon Woodworth

“This will encourage quicker development of the biomass…and develop local sustainable biomass markets,” Mr. Leggett told the crowd. “It shows a commitment to renewable energy, will result in a 20% reduction in airborne emissions and an 83% reduction in greenhouse gases.”

He said the town bonded $200,000 for the new boiler. A $400,000 NYSERDA grant and a $20,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant paid for the rest.

This silo holds the hardwood pellets that will help heat the Chester town hall. The Town Board authorized purchasing pellets from Vincent Heating and Fuel of Poland, N.Y., for $219 a ton.

State Senator Betty Little said, “Chester has had great supervisors with Fred Monroe and Craig, and has always been very innovative. They were one of the first towns in the state to embrace solar energy and now to have this program to help control their heating costs…It’s a wonderful program, and I’m proud to represent this community.”

Mr. Monroe, who Mr. Leggett said started the process to acquire the boiler in 2012, said, “We wanted to keep the money local. We wanted to have the wood harvested locally and processed locally. That keeps all the money local.”

Richard Cunningham receives a plaque from Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett. The Cunningham family is selling 104 acres of forest to the town for $65,000.

He credited Senator Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec, who also spoke at the ribbon-cutting, with passing a state law that extends the financing period for buying boilers to 15 years.

Mr. Leggett said the town hopes to purchase the Cunningham Community Forest in the coming days, and will pay the Cunningham family $65,000; $50,000 of it will come from the Peckham Family Foundation. The Peckham family owns a quarry and asphalt plant in Chester, as well as Etain, the medical marijuana grow facility across Route 9.

Former Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, left, receives a plaque from current supervisor Craig Leggett “in recognition of your vision, commitment and perseverance in preserving the forest economy for both current and future generations.”

John Peckham said, “I am captivated by the steps the town has taken to take control of its future.”

Richard Cunningham, representing the Cunningham family, said, “We’re pleased that this land has brought peace and joy to so many.”

Jerry Delaney, chairman of Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and a councilman in the town of Saranac, said the purchase of the Cunningham Community Forest means the town “has taken the destiny of this forest into our own hands, to use it for what is best for your community…I salute you for your vision.”

John Peckham, left, president of Peckham Industries, presents an oversized check from the Peckham Family Foundation to Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett.

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