ANCRAM—Whether you’re a frog or a town, it ain’t easy being green in this pandemic era.
Ancram has run into some Covid-19-related snags both in trying to move forward on Climate Smart projects and also in trying to retain experienced Highway Department employees and attract new ones.
But supply chain disruptions and worker shortages are not just happening in Ancram, they are global.
A June 17 statement, “Why the Pandemic Has Disrupted Supply Chains” in a White House blog (www.whitehouse.gov/cea/blog/) details the situation from the current administration’s point of view.
As for the local impact, during the July 15 Ancram Town Board meeting Climate Smart Community Task Force Chair Suzan Flamm asked the board a question: On what project should the town spend the remaining $71,000 of an $80,000 grant? The town was awarded the grant by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) through its Clean Energy Communities (CEC) Program.
Ancram became a Climate Smart Community back in February 2016 and the task force assisted the town in applying for the grant. The grant is aimed at helping communities reduce energy use and promoting the use of renewable energy.
The town spent about $9,000 on “Ancram’s Bright Idea—Community Energy Efficiency Lighting Program.” Ancram gave 1,425 LED lightbulbs to town residents who wanted them. The committee expects to give away the remaining 225 bulbs this year.
But Ancram was supposed to have decided how to spend the remaining grant funds prior to the end of June. Now it’s crunch time or lose the grant.
One idea discussed at length, was installing an air source heat pump HVAC system to heat and cool two-thirds of Town Hall. The unit that serves remaining third of the building recently failed and had to be replaced. So the new system would replace only the two remaining old units.
The difficulty has been trying to nail down a price on the new system, which now seems to have a price range from $180,000 to $145,000. The original price quoted was $270,000. Since the cost will be greater than the grant amount, the town board wants to know how much it will have to invest to make up the difference. The figure $30,000 was mentioned.
Councilmembers Bonnie Hundt and Madeleine Israel were in favor of moving forward with buying the new HVAC system, no matter what the cost because it will not burn fossil fuels.
Councilmember David Boice cautioned that just because the system will run on electricity does not mean fossil fuels won’t be used to generate that electricity.
But Town Supervisor Art Bassin noted that a “real number” for the system cost will not be available until September or October and the actual equipment may not be available until November.
Ms. Flamm brought up a second option for the grant money—the new vehicle the town has pledged to purchase for use by the Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors Association in its local food distribution program.
‘You can’t touch anything.’
Councilmember David Boice
Town of Ancram
The new vehicle would qualify for purchase with NYSERDA grant money if it is electric. But Councilmember Boice said he has not been able to secure a price for either a 2021 or 2022 model of the Dodge cargo van. All the 2021 vehicles have been reserved for Amazon and other commercial enterprises building their fleets, said Mr. Boice, who noted he might be able to order the Dodge from Italy through its parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), but it wouldn’t be delivered until next spring.
“You can’t touch anything,” said the councilman, adding he had recently looked into ordering some shingles for one of his clients and found there is a 52-week wait to get them.
The idea of paying for the vehicle with part of the $152,301 in American Rescue Plan Act funds the town will receive was also part of the discussion.
After nearly an hour and a half of back and forth, the board instructed Ms. Flamm to put in a request with NYSERDA to use the grant money for the new HVAC system, but asked her to inquire about the possibility of using the money for both projects. Mr. Bassin said by phone this week that Ms. Flamm believes NYSERDA will allow the town the flexibility to pursue either project depending on how the cost figures/bids eventually come in.
In another matter related to shortages, Highway Superintendent Jim Miller announced that his deputy superintendent has tendered his resignation to take a better paying job in the private sector. That will leave just two full-time employees in the department in addition to Mr. Miller, who is slated for surgery in the near future.
The board decided to raise the wages of highway department employees, both to keep current workers and attract new ones.
The deputy highway superintendent will now make $27/hour; an employee with more than 10 years on the job will make $26/hour; an employee with more than 5 years on the job will make $25/hour and an employee with less than 5 years will make $24. The town will also pay for a higher percentage of an employee’s health insurance costs.
The next Town Board meeting is scheduled for August 19 at 7 p.m. in-person at the Town Hall.