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Council bans fire pits, wood-burning boilers

So far as officials know, no one in the city has an outdoor wood-burning boiler, but that didn't stop the Common Council from making them illegal.

Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to amend the city code to ban such boilers, which produce heat and hot water for homes.

The Council also outlawed outdoor use of fire pits, fireplaces or similar devices.

"Anything that produces smoke, if it doesn't have a chimney, according to the Niagara County sanitary code and the state fire code, it's illegal," Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite said. "You can't do it."

Boilers often have short stacks, which technically are not chimneys.

"We're not trying to be bad guys," said Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward. "We're just trying to keep people who have problems with smoke from being ill."

The boilers are most popular in rural communities. Passuite presented a list of municipalities that have banned or regulated them. Most, including the city of Watertown, are in Northern New York.

Passuite cited a 2005 state report estimating the number of outdoor wood-burning boilers in the state in 2004 at 1,880. With no federal or state regulations covering such boilers, the attorney general's office recommended regulation on the local level.

In other matters, the Council received Mayor Michael W. Tucker's reappointment of Richard P. Mullaney as city clerk and budget director for another five-year term.

Mullaney, 54, has been budget director since 1982 and city clerk since 1985. He started with the city as a laborer in 1976, after having worked four summers as a seasonal employee.

Also Tuesday, the Council awarded a contract for coating the interior steel walls of the city compost plant in a hardened foam to prevent further rust.

Foam-Tech of North Thetford, Vt., won the contract for $696,865 plus a 15 percent contingency for overruns.

"We've had the money in the budget for about three years," Schrader noted.

City Engineer Norman D. Allen said the new technology turns the foam into a plastic-type coating that "supposedly blocks out the oxygen. It should give (the building) another 25 to 30 years."

The compost plant was erected in 1990. "It's highly humid in there," Schrader said.

The Council also approved the purchase of two new police cars from Howell Motors of Wrights Corners for $39,472.

It also revoked overnight parking permits at Dudley Square Park and scheduled a public hearing July 18 on a special use permit for a banner listing sponsors of the Historic Palace Theater on the Elm Street wall of the building.


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