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Town moving ahead on solar project

The pads are down, and solar panels will arrive this week as the town moves another step forward on its more than $288,000 state-funded solar energy project.

Town Engineer David Britton told Town Board members Monday night that the town is ahead of schedule to meet the Aug. 1 completion deadline and that the panels at Town Hall should be "substantially completed" by June 22.

Britton said panels at the highway garage should be completed by mid-July.

In order to meet the deadline, a third shift was added for town highway crews, which have already excavated and are now laying down stone for the 30-by-60-foot pad at Town Hall. They will do the same at the highway garage.

Crews from McConnell Electric are expected to arrive this week and install the solar grid panels and conduits, Britton said.

Once completed, the new panels will be one of the main sources of electricity for town municipal buildings. The Town Board had discussed installing wind turbines for several years, but after hitting several obstacles, the board decided earlier this year to move toward solar energy.

The board was required to complete the project by Aug. 1 in order to take advantage of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority grant of $320,000 it received in February 2010. The grant was designated specifically "to fund an energy project to reduce the town's energy footprint."

In another matter Monday, the board agreed unanimously that it is opposed to any plan to change water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and will send their formal opposition to state and federal representatives.

Board member Lawrence H. White said that under current practices, the International Joint Commission tries to keep the fluctuation of water level within four feet from its lowest points in winter to its highest points in summer, but under the new plan these levels would be allowed to fluctuate by seven feet.

"The high is too high and the low is too low," said White. "This change would have adverse affects on lakefront fishing and on boating."

He said that at meetings he has attended on the matter, there has already been widespread opposition and noted that Niagara County, Erie County and Wilson also have submitted similar written opposition.