Knox $130K grant’s ‘final stage’ put off another month

Enterprise file photo — H. Rose Schneider

Chilly garage: Holes in the Knox Highway Garage roof were visible during a tour of the town facilities last year.

KNOX — A $130,000 grant that the town has sought for years has reached a “final stage,” which has been extended into March.

At the town board’s Feb. 13 meeting, Councilman Kenneth Saddlemire asked the board to review an application for the Clean Energy Communities grant before voting to send it to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Saddlemire told The Enterprise last week that he asked the other four town board members to review the application because all the information needs to be accurate. The application will request $130,000 that the town will use in projects for either renewable energy or saving energy. Saddlemire declined to discuss what project the grant would fund.

At its Feb. 13 meeting, the board had agreed to vote on the application this Tuesday as members gathered to tour the transfer station. The board members on Tuesday discussed structural issues at the transfer station such as at the trash compactor as well as storage needs and a possibility of creating more stringent rules.

Following the tour, the town board decided to table the approval of the grant application until its March meeting. Saddlemire noted that he felt the grant was “done backwards” in that the money was allocated before a project was determined, and added that there could be other programs the town could use to remediate facilities such as their reserve funds, and that the needs of the town could change in the future.

The NYSERDA grant program had been presented to the town board in the summer of 2016. Amy Pokorny, a town councilwoman who left the board last year after losing to Vasilios Lefkaditis in the town supervisor’s race, had led a committee to complete four action items needed to get the grant. A fourth action item proposed by Pokorny last February — an electric-vehicle charging station that would have been funded by an already-obtained grant — couldn’t get a second from the board after some in the gallery were derisive of Pokorny and of having an EV-charging station in Knox.

In June of last year, Pokorny announced that the town had completed four action items and ultimately would secure the grant as long as the town followed the rest of the process to obtain it. She said that Knox had been the last of four towns in the Capital Region to receive the $100,000 grant.

The town was offered an additional $30,000 by NYSERDA through the LaFarge Mitigation Fund, which made available over $800,000 to municipalities in Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties following a settlement between the state and federal government and the cement company Lafarge North America, Inc., which has a plant in Ravena.

According to literature on the grant from NYSERDA, once a municipality is confirmed to have completed all four action items, it has three months to submit a proposal to be funded. Projects most also begin within six months of the grant being awarded and completed within three years.

“We haven’t missed anything yet,” Saddlemire told The Enterprise, of the application deadlines.

He said that the next step, should the town board approve this application, would be to have the New York Power Authority conduct an energy audit to identify areas where high amounts of energy are used that could be mitigated either by using renewable energy or methods of conserving energy.

“We’re at the final stage of the application process,” he said.

Pokorny told The Enterprise this week that the project proposal required by NYSERDA included a description of how the grant money should be spent and a description of that process. It also would illustrate how the project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use as well as how it would encourage other communities  to save energy and economically benefit the town, she said.

Pokorny said that the committee put together the Knox application and submitted it in late August or early September. NYSERDA gave its final approval for a grant of $130,000 for the project on Feb. 1, she said.

A representative of NYSERDA confirmed that the application was submitted on Sept. 5, and that it was approved for $130,000 on Jan. 26. The next step is to finalize the contract.

Pokorny said she assumes the contract being discussed is indeed “final steps” that need to be taken, but that it is contract paperwork and finalizing the scope of the project budget. Saddlemire had said that these were part of the application.

Pokorny said that five elements are part of the proposal. The first one involves an evaluation of energy use in the town, the second part would follow up on this with an energy audit; Saddlemire had said that this would be the next step after submitting this application.

The third step, said Pokorny, would be to evaluate the potential for the town to use solar panels to generate renewable energy, something Lefkaditis had said last year that he would prefer using the grant for. The fourth step would be to use the energy audit to select the most impactful upgrade for the town; potentially, this could mean repairing the highway garage.

“We would look at each of the buildings the town owns and the energy deficiencies … ,” said Pokorny.

The fifth step would be to create energy education outreach for residents and small businesses. This could involve publishing information in the town newsletter and tours of facilities or new town projects, she said.

A representative of NYSERDA said that the grant will fund an audit of the town buildings and then select the highest impact measure identified in the audit that the town could take and conduct that. This could be improving energy efficiency or establishing renewable energy measures. The grant would also fund education and outreach on conserving energy and renewable energy.

Garage renovations?

The town’s grant committee had originally thought some of the funds could be used to upgrade Knox’s highway department garage.

At last year’s tour of the town facilities, the second one the town has held, it was noted that the garage was improperly wired, leaked, and has no insulation. The grant could fund insulation as a means of conserving energy. However Lefkaditis has said that the grant should not go to a building that he said “more than likely is going to be torn down in the very near future.”

Last March, Lefkaditis said that Knox and Albany County would share a new facility. He also said that the grant money would be better spent on a solar array for the town rather than insulating the highway garage.

Lefkaditis expressed a similar sentiment when Robert Price, the former chair of the planning board, first came up with estimates on renovating the garage and then asked the town to address the highway garage’s water.

The garage is a steel-framed building, about 40 by 90 feet, built in 1963. Price said insulation would make the workers more comfortable — in cold weather, temperatures inside the garage don’t reach over 50 degrees, he said, and the workers pile sand to keep the wind out. He also recommended replacing the 10 plastic skylights with corrugated roofing.

Price estimated it would cost $62,000 to insulate the building with spray foam, fix the roof skylights, replace the windows, and fix the four bay doors so that wind doesn’t come in from underneath them.

A report on the water collected by Price last spring said that the water exceeded recommended levels of hardness, chloride, manganese, and sulfate — a likely reason for why the water is known to be oily and leave behind a hard residue. Price said remediating this would cost the town between $8,000 and $10,000.

However, the report also said the water was potable, and Lefkaditis pointed out that the workers drink water brought in by the treatment-company Culligan.

“They shouldn’t have to work on those conditions,” Lefkaditis said at the time. “But what I’m afraid of, is putting a Band-Aid on a gash.”

Office upgrade

Despite Lefkaditis’s earlier reservations about putting “Band-Aids” on the highway garage, the town board on Tuesday approved Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury’s request to renovate his office there.

“It’s a disaster … ,” said Salisbury, of his office. “I’m not looking to spend a ton of money but we need some changes there.”

Salisbury chairs the town’s Republican Committee, which backed the victorious slate in November’s election, including Lefkaditis, Saddlemire, and Karl Pritchard.

Salisbury told the board that he was looking at a range of $1,500 to $2,000 for renovations. Lefkaditis asked him if he could work with $1,000, to which Salisbury said he could, but it would preferable to be allowed more than that in order not to risk going over.

“Hopefully, it’s less than that, but that would cover it,” Salisbury said, of the $1,500.

Councilman Earl Barcomb said that the town would eventually need to look at the entire garage, but agreed to an amount of $1,000. Councilman Dennis Barber made a motion for Salisbury to spend up to $1,000. Saddlemire asked to change that to $1,200, and the town board unanimously voted for Salisbury to spend up to that amount.

“Don’t get it halfway done; get it all the way done,” said Lefkaditis.

Salisbury told the town board that he would like to open up a wall to what is currently a tool-storage room and replace a desk with a shelf along a wall to create more space. Lefkaditis agreed that the office “wasn’t pretty,” when he came there to install Salisbury’s new computer.

He described it as a 7-by-9-foot room with “wires running everywhere” because there are no outlets inside it. The supervisor noted that the room was built for a time without computers.

“That doesn’t work anymore,” said Salisbury.

Other business

At its Feb. 13 meeting, the board also:

— Announced a public hearing for a local law that would allow the board to dismiss planning or zoning board members for missing too many meetings. The hearing will be held before the board’s March 13 meeting;

— Approved Chris Shoemaker, who will be running the Foxenkill Tavern and hopes to reopen it this year, to apply for a liquor license before the end of the 30-day waiting period after receiving a special-use permit from the town;

— Approved installing teal lights outside the town hall from March 5 to 11 in honor of a “Paint the World Teal Day” being held on World Lymphedema Day on March 6. Emma Detlefsen, a young resident of Berne, suffers from the disease and advocates for research on it both at a local and national level;

— Authorized Salisbury to spend up to $5,600 for two new trucks — the town will trade in an old truck and a broken truck for them — with a new sander and plow;

— Approved contracts for heating and ventilation repairs, services on the town-hall generator, and a new workers’ compensation policy;

— Discussed hosting a cookout to honor town volunteers in September;

— Approved $2,500 for the Pucker Street Fair, which will be held in late June and early July;

— Created committees for selecting a parks laborer and dog-control officer, while the town board agreed to continue to work together to select members of the planning and zoning boards and the Conservation Advisory Council. The council meetings have been temporarily suspended because there are so few members. Lefkaditis said that there were four applicants for the position of dog-control officer;

— Reappointed Kevin Sherman to the Conservation Advisory Council and Vall Pulliam to the Board of Assessment Review, and appointed zoning board member Doug Roether as the interim chairman; and

— Discussed a lease of the Saddlemire Homestead by the town to the Knox Historical Society in order for the society to get approval from the state.
 

Updated on Feb. 21, 2018: Information was added from Tuesday’s tour of the Knox transfer station and from NYSERDA and comments from Amy Pokorny were added.

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