Two community arrays coming to Westerlo

Enterprise file photo — H. Rose Schneider

Wall of Honor: Photos of veterans from Westerlo were collected by Dennis and Sue Fancher, of the town’s historical society, last year. 

WESTERLO — Two new solar arrays were recently approved to be built in Westerlo as part of a new community solar project

Westerlo Planning Board Chairwoman Dorothy Verch, speaking at the town board meeting Tuesday night, said that the planning board approved the two applications at its Jan. 23 meeting upon certain conditions following public hearings held for both.

The two arrays will be leased by the company Clean Energy Collective, Verch told The Enterprise on Wednesday. The company intends to run each two-megawatt solar array as a community solar project that would have participants’ utility bills lowered based on the energy generated.

The Medusa Solar Farm will be located on seven acres of land off of Route 351, and the array known as Westerlo NY 01 will be located on 11 acres at the intersection of routes 32 and 405.

Verch told The Enterprise that the arrays were approved with about half-a-dozen conditions, including approval from the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company and the state’s Department of Transportation as well acceptance of the array’s payment-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, program by the town.

Verch said at Tuesday’s meeting that one resident, Ralph Rosa, had said he would be able to see the arrays from his home, but he said it wouldn’t block his view of the Catskills.

Westerlo NY 01, located off of routes 405 and 32, will be visible to travelers on these roads, said Verch. The array’s developers offered to screen the area with trees, but it was decided to determine if this would be necessary once the array is built. Planning board member Ned Stevens said that the board was apprehensive about planting trees because they could block the view of the intersection for drivers.

Verch told The Enterprise that the application for these two arrays stated that building would start in 2018 with completion anticipated in 2019.

Verch said that both arrays were approved unanimously, with one member, Richard Kurylo, absent.

These community arrays join at least two other large commercial solar projects that are either approved or in the works in Westerlo.

Members needed

Several organizations in town are looking for new members. The museum board’s chairwoman, Mary Jane Araldi, said that she is seeking two new members since Sue Cunningham stepped down. The board has three members and is supposed to have five to seven, she said.

And although the town’s zoning board of appeals welcomed a new member, James Gallogly, at its Jan. 22 meeting, member John Sefcik said at Tuesday’s town board meeting that there is still a vacancy on the zoning board.

Town Councilman Anthony Sherman said that the town is also still searching for a member to chair the water board, and that the town has sent out letters to residents of the water district who would be eligible for the position.

Former town Councilman William Bichteman had served in the position previously.

A warm reception

Supervisor Richard Rapp announced that the town hall now has heat installed, although there are still some repairs left to do in the building such as insulating pipes. Tuesday’s meeting was held on an unfinished floor with scaffolding nearby in anticipation of the room’s repairs being completed as well.

Councilman Joseph Boone pointed out that the restrooms and hallway have also been repaired. Rapp noted that the town has not borrowed any money for these repairs.

The heat installation marks the end of a lengthy process. The board had put up a bond vote to renovate the town hall and install a new heating system in 2015 and 2016, both of which failed to pass. Shortly after, in November 2016, the 70-year-old heating system failed. Last January, the board began searching for contractors to install a new system, and temporary heaters were used through the colder months of the year.

Dog fees to increase

The board will be discussing a new fee schedule at its next meeting. One of the changes to the fee schedule will include a $25 increase to the dog-redemption fee due to an increase in the cost of a contract between the town and the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, which holds stray dogs for the town.

Town Clerk Kathleen Spinnato explained that the humane society had charged the town $325 per dog in 2016, and so the town would charge an owner retrieving his or her dog that amount and an additional $25 for expenses like transportation. The humane society’s fee increased $10 the next year, and this year increased to $351.75. Spinnato suggested the town charge owners $375 per dog.

Chris Smith, an Albany County legislator from East Berne, suggested that Westerlo partner with the town of Knox, which recently established a kennel in its town park maintenance shed to hold unclaimed dogs. Boone said he would be concerned only that Westerlo would have to pay both Knox and the humane society should the dogs have to leave the Knox kennel.

Hometown Heroes

Lisa DeGroff, the town’s Republican Party chairwoman, and Michelle Viola-Straight, the president of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, approached the board as two “military moms” with a proposal to create a Hometown Heroes program in Westerlo. This past fall, Viola-Straight had brought the program to Guilderland, which puts up banners depicting local veterans in town.

“I don’t think that this will be a hard sell,” said Boone, but said the board would have to figure out the logistics of the program, such who would put up the banners in Westerlo.

Other business

In addition, the board also:

— Heard from Rapp that the town had received $9,000 from the New York State Dormitory Authority. He credited his administrative aid, Patricia Boice, with obtaining those funds;

— Arranged a public hearing at the board’s next regular meeting to update Westerlo’s solar law. The law will be changed to state that fences surrounding commercial arrays must comply with the National Electrical Code; and

— Heard in a report from the town’s grant writer, Nicole Ambrosia, that she had applied for a grant for Westerlo through the New York State Consolidated Funding application, which funds energy-efficiency projects.



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