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Lewiston board delays action on proposal for propane storage

Despite more than a dozen meetings and hearings, Wendt Propane moved no closer Monday with its plan to nearly double its propane storage facility on Ward Road in Sanborn.

Last month, the Lewiston Town Board held off approving a request for Wendt to add three, 30,000-gallon above-ground storage tanks and scheduled Monday's special public hearing, but stopped short of voting on the matter.

Instead, board members asked the Fire Safety Board, which meets Thursday, to give its recommendation before taking action.

The Town Board meets again next Monday.

Owner and President Paul Wendt was clearly disappointed. He said after the meeting that company representatives have appeared at 14 meetings, including before the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Environmental Board, Fire Safety Board and the Town Board since the project was proposed last year.

Wendt said at past meetings that he needs the 170,000 gallons of storage as a fail-safe, and almost ran out of propane this past February because of storms, strikes and pipeline problems.

Project Engineer Kristen Gamble told the Town Board that they had hoped that Monday's meeting would be the final step and construction could soon start.

Resident Alexander Kravitz spoke against the plan, saying the big tanks were dangerous.

"People said nuclear power was safe and look how many people were killed in Russia," said Kravitz.

He suggested that if Wendt wanted more storage, the company should move to a more rural area and away from a populated area such as the hamlet of Sanborn.

Town Fire Inspector Pat Martin, who heads the Fire Safety Board, said the fire chiefs and the Fire Safety Board have been touring Wendt Propane to ensure the safety of the project.

"This [expansion plan] has a very large impact and we are taking it very seriously," Martin said. "It doesn't go forward until [the Fire Safety Board] feels safe. We have the final say. Any changes in storage is granted by the fire chiefs."

He said the propane industry has increased safeguards, but when an accident does happen it can be very serious.

"There's no such thing as a 100-percent guarantee," Martin said.

Gamble said the company is available for the Fire Safety Board, will fine tune and has already offered training, and will customize the site for local fire departments.

"Whatever they need to make the fire departments comfortable," she said.

Wendt said the company has emergency safety valves that are checked daily and, since 1998, has been compliant with 2010 safety standards and will be 2017 compliant when the new tanks are added.

Martin said Wendt is inspected once a year and has had only minor issues, such as signage, but has had no issues with the way it operates.

Town Board members agreed that they should consider creating an addendum to the Town Code, because some of the requirements in the present code for flammable materials are specific to liquids, such as gasoline and diesel fuels, but do not apply to propane.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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