Year in review: Councilman Rizzo addresses issues


As the year ends, I would like to share the accomplishments and concerns as councilman for the town of Johnstown.

As elected, my core values were to promote the town for a better outcome with honesty.  There were times of contradiction, different views, and at times complete lockout.  Improvement was either completed solely, as a small group, or as a full board.

LED lighting upgrade

Evaluation of lighting systems at town hall determined that the LED lighting upgrade was needed and provides a yearly reduction of $1,771 at a net total cost of $6,589.

In four years the lighting upgrade pays for itself and the life cycle of the lights will approximately be 20 years.  It was identified that the town was paying high electrical cost per kWh and a switch in suppliers will be made after rebates are returned.

The second improvement was replacing the original windows of the main structure due to damage and heating loss —  project cost was $7,895.

Solar installations

A solar power system was viewed for alternative energy at the town hall and the town barn.  An initial investment of $55,000 for the town hall and $45,000 for the town barn for completion of systems. These estimates are approximate based on current billing, LED upgrade, and electrical service inflation. In combining both projects the net approximate cost would be $100,000.

Performance charts indicated that within 25 years the town hall would save $205,000 and the town barn $175,000. Approximate savings are $380,000 minus the investment of $100,000, net saving of $280,000 over 25 years.

In moving towards a green building, it has been estimated that a net total of 27 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be saved yearly.

Furnace update

The town hall requires a furnace update with the plenum and laterals which either need cleaning, installation, or reconfiguration. The current system relies on the void between the rafters and the drop ceiling. If funded (approximately $94,000) the upgrade will include: re-tack insulation that has fallen or added, replace ductwork and louvers with dampeners, reconfigure the HVAC, replace drop ceiling tiles (original structure), upgraded communications network, and complete the unfinished storage area.

Projects are not BID nor has it been approved, but communications with the state for assistance of $194,000 have taken place.

Storage barn

The road mix storage barn came to light after a complaint from the neighborhood was identified. Bartering was taking place, yet no approved contracts were recognized by the board.

Recently, the town board voted in favor of a bartering agreement and to continue these actions (vote: 3 aye — 2 nay).

Resolution 2016-102 will indicate the agreement and details.  This agreement impacts private BIDs with private snow plowing contractors and terminates the option for competitive bidding for tree removal services with the town.

The storage barn has been described as holding 5,470 tons of road mix. Supplying road mix to a private contractor actually increases the size of storage and the cost of that storage was placed on the residence as well as liability, including: $10,000 of salt — at $61 / ton — is equivalent to 164 tons.

Sizing criteria for storage barns are hard to calculate due to changing storm events, but a document to aid other towns for sizing criteria is the “The Salt Storage Handbook” by Salt Institute, 2006.

As an example, 18-storms with a treatment of 300 miles of two lane highway, with four applications per storm, typically requires 5,400 ton storage. In combination with the calculation and yearly usages — an adequate sizing could be estimated as well as number of deliveries per year which would ultimately reduce storage size.

The storage barn was required, but for the investment made a permanent structure should have been evaluated with a true foundation or containment membrane to protect the watersheds. Funding should have been researched the year prior.

The temporary structure is a pre-engineered canopy truss placed on a system of mafia blocks that are strapped together.  Net estimated cost is $330,000.  I voted “nay” and abstained from involvement on the structure because it needed to be properly engineered with a true foundation / evaluation, but still knew it was a need while questioning the sizing and approach.

Maple Avenue solar

The solar array proposed on Maple Avenue was approved for contracting with Solar City on Dec. 19.  Economic return to the town is approximately $12,000 / year based on a concept.  If the lease is maintained, a net return of $300,000 over 25 years could be anticipated.

If the project is approved by the Planning Board and developed, this will be one of the first projects the Town has established with a third party such as Solar City while providing an economic return.

Budget review

In review of the budgetary process with fellow a councilman, it was apparent that the majority of the taxation goes directly to the highway department — as expected.

During the annual insurance update with New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, it was expressed that our insurance continually increase in cost primarily due to new equipment and inflation. The insurance cost increases are — exceeding — the allowable tax cap set by the state.

It was commented by the NYMIR representative that this town is one of the few with new equipment and quantity of equipment in comparison to size.

It is understood that new equipment reduces maintenance cost, but to compound a new storage barn taken out on a loan with interest and then continually replace equipment is a continual debt at which the town owes in combination to already established debt.

Highway tractors

To add on two newly proposed 100-plus hp tractors to mow ditch line to replace two older models at approximately 45-65 hp is unjustified, while a $20,000 mower head was replaced on one of the tractors 3-4 years ago, as informed.

In the report “Energy And Emission Rates Of Highway Mowing Activities” TRB 2011 annual meeting for NYSDOT, confirms that 100 plus hp tractors are energy consumption tractors and the power is not required for ditch line mowing or over the rail.

One main consideration for over the rail mowing is tractor weight due to the system capable of overturning the tractor. But the downfall with today’s tractors are the emission regulations from Tier-2 to Tier-4, which require more power.

“To save on energy costs from highway mowing activities, efforts should focus on procuring a fleet of fuel-efficient tractors and appropriate task assignments… In future purchasing decisions, the NYSDOT will have to determine if the higher fuel consumption rates of larger tractors are worth the higher power capabilities.”

Replacing two tractors with larger pieces of equipment and higher operations cost is another added cost. Replacement tractors should be maintained as recommended by the state. A 65-75 hp tractor is smaller in size less restrictive to traffic. Though one tractor may need replacement it is not in the best interest to place a tractor on a lease due to funding issues, added cost, as well as oversized. Proper BIDs and considerations of actual sizing, function, and cost need to be valued.

In conclusion

I hope the town receives funding from the state to upgrade the town hall and town barn and reduce overall energy cost, which will ultimately aid in stabilizing some taxation.

In light of all the information provided, seen, and discussions — specific areas of change may be required.

Timothy Rizzo is councilman for the town of Johnstown.