USDA funding will help build Town of Andes highway facility

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By Matthew J. Perry
The Town of Andes kicked off 2009 with a preliminary announcement of a new source of funding for its proposed highway garage at its organizational meeting Monday.
Supervisor Marty Donnelly informed the town board that he had met with New York State Director of Rural USDA, Patrick Brennan, and received a “firm, solid commitment” for a $1.7 million loan, in addition to a $50,000 grant, that would finance plans for a new garage on the Tremperskill Road.
The financial details of the loan were not discussed at the meeting. It was noted that the grant portion of the arrangement would be necessary for construction to begin in the spring of 2009.
Delaware Engineering had submitted nearly complete plans for the new garage last spring, when plans to seek municipal bonds as a means of financing were shelved by damages and attendant costs created by flooding in the town that summer.
USDA Rural Development offers loan and grant funds through its community facilities program. Its Web site states that loans can be extended for up to 40 years, and that “interest rates for direct loans are based on current market yields for municipal obligations.”
Donnelly noted that the current highway garage is not up to Federal OSHA standards and is outfitted with bays too small to service the department’s trucks.
Should Andes succeed in building its new garage in 2009, the facility may be outfitted with heating units that burn locally produced grass biomass pellets. Cornell’s Cooperative Extension, in conjunction with the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), is promoting a “production to consumption” pilot project that will include the installation of grass pellet stoves and outdoor boilers in municipal buildings.
Paul Cerosaletti of CCE also addressed the board on Monday and outlined a possible scenario for the town’s participation in the project. Both an outdoor boiler and indoor pellet stove would be installed in the new garage; the CWC would fund the installation and three years of maintenance, after which the town would be free to use or abandon the units. In return, Andes personnel would be responsible for daily maintenance, compiling usage data, and hosting open houses at the garage several times a season.
CCE is hoping to install grass pellet units in up to five local municipalities during the three-year project.
Cerosaletti explained that the project began in earnest “when oil was heading towards $5 a gallon”; it remains vital, he argued, because the grass pellets are the equivalent of “bagged rainfall and sunlight. This is energy that’s generated and processed here in Delaware County and it can come back here.”
Donnelly, who sits on the CWC board of directors, echoed Cerosaletti’s argument. “I’ve been fortunate to attend several meetings on this. This is more than about the cost of oil; this is something that would help our farmers.”
Convening the meeting after yet another snowstorm, the board also addressed a recurring complaint of village residents concerning state and county trucks that plow Route 28. Residents noted that after complying with local law that requires sidewalks to be shoveled the day after a storm, they often find that passing plows quickly cover up the walks with more snow, requiring a second or third round of shoveling.
The board acknowledged the problem, but had little to offer as a solution. Donnelly noted that he had called state and county officials, and was told that if the trucks raise their plows over any length of Route 28, the truck’s owner, either state or county government, would be liable for any accidents that occurred there.
“They plow, you have to go out and shovel it again,” Donnelly said. Consultant Marge Merzig noted that in other towns, a grass meridian protects sidewalks from the plows; in Andes Route 28 is too wide to allow for such a barrier.
Hamlet residents were also reminded not to use rock salt on icy sidewalks and to use traction sand or ash instead.