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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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