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Towns working to save energy, money

January 03, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Town of Williamsport installed energy-efficient boilers last summer at two public buildings -- Town Hall and the Williamsport Memorial Library -- to save money.

The boilers cost a combined $73,000, but burn two gallons of heating oil per hour instead of 6.4 gallons per hour as the old ones did, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said. In three years, the town should recoup its cost.

"It's going to save us a ton of money through the years," McCleaf said.

In addition to the fiscal benefits, the boiler purchase is just one of the steps that Williamsport has taken to go green.

Like Williamsport, other municipalities across Washington County have jumped on the green bandwagon.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said town officials are in the process of drafting a letter that will be mailed to residents asking whether they want to get involved in a voluntary curbside recycling program for a yet-to-be determined fee. The letters are to be mailed within the next month, she said.

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Myers said she would like to form a consortium with Washington County officials and other local municipalities to find the lowest possible cost.

"I'd like to see it offered to where it doesn't cost the homeowners too much money," Myers said. "We're interested in anything within reason, but the bottom line is it's going to cost the homeowners."

Smithsburg already started a program to recycle cans and bottles by placing receptacles at Veterans Park, Myers said. That idea didn't work because people were using the receptacles to dispose of several types of trash.

Myers said Allegheny Power entered into Smithsburg's green picture about a year ago by installing energy-saving light bulbs in street lights.

Allegheny Power recently started installing 100-watt high-pressure sodium bulbs to replace 175-watt mercury-vapor bulbs in street lights in Allegheny Power's coverage area, said David Kline, the company's manager of local affairs in Maryland.

"It's a staged program over the last year and through the next year," Kline said.

The benefits of the new bulbs are twofold, he said, because they generate more light by using less energy, and the sodium composition is safer to the environment than mercury.

In Hagerstown, the City Council voted last year to change the lights in traffic signals from incandescent bulbs to light-emitting diodes, a cluster of small lights rather than a single bulb.

When one of the small lights burns out, the others continue to operate. Besides using about 75 percent less electricity than conventional bulbs, LEDs last about 10 times longer.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue said the Public Works Department is installing more efficient bulbs in city buildings and continues to eliminate window air conditioners, when practical, "in favor of more efficient central air."

The city also has a curbside recycling program for mixed paper, yard waste and commingled aluminum, glass and plastic.

In addition to existing green practices, the council is considering whether to give tax breaks to developers who build green buildings in the city. That proposal is in the early stages, and nothing has been decided.

Boonsboro Town Manager Debra Smith said the town switched to using more energy-efficient bulbs on public property, and town employees recycle cans and paper.

Funkstown also uses energy-efficient bulbs, and has a recycling bin behind the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co., Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said. That bin is used to dispose of paper that is shredded at Town Hall.

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