North Elba looks inward for biodigester coordinator

Science teacher no longer involved

LAKE PLACID — The town of North Elba is moving ahead with its plans to bring a biodigester here, hiring a budget coordinator in the process. The local school teacher who conceived the idea to bring the organic food waste machine here is no longer involved.

At their Tuesday meeting, town council members unanimously approved hiring Darci LaFave, the town’s codes and planning coordinator, to the position of budget coordinator for the biodigester project for an extra $2,000 per year.

Town Highway Superintendent Larry Straight also expressed interest in attending meetings for the biodigester as councilmen Bob Miller and Derek Doty relayed that the town has received a two-year extension to use a $1.2 million grant for the project from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The problem remains, however, that the town still doesn’t have a vendor willing to provide the biodigester North Elba officials want within that price range. The company Bioferm had agreed to provide the device but then announced late in the process that it would need at least $250,000 more.

“We’ve got to find a biodigester first that fits into the cost scheme of what we want to do,” said Roby Politi, the town’s supervisor.

Tammy Morgan, the Lake Placid High School science teacher who pushed the project from the beginning, is no longer involved. Saddened by the August news that the biodigester plan fell through after town officials previously said they were ready to install the device this fall, her hope that the device ever comes here isn’t high.

“I’m concerned that they are not doing enough to take advantage of this economic opportunity,” she said.

A biodigester breaks down organic waste and produces energy, in this case electricity. North Elba’s would be located at the town transfer station in Lake Placid.

Miller, Doty and the rest of the town council commended LaFave for her organization skills.

“Basically Darcy’s job is going to be to keep track of us to make sure we are hitting milestones as we move forward with what we need to achieve with this project,” Miller said.

Miller added that he, Doty, Straight, LaFave and Jennifer Perry, who handles NYSERDA funding through the Adirondack North Country Association, would meet later this week to take the process forward.

Doty added that Essex County’s environmental manager, Todd Hodgson — who has worked on biodigester designs in the past — will contribute to the project part-time from more of an advisory level. Hodgson’s contributions will come at no cost to town taxpayers.

When Bioferm unexpectedly quoted the higher-than-expected price to the town this summer, the company also said the town would have to do extra site work and that, instead of building a new biodigester on site, as contracted, Bioferm would ship a used device from Italy, refurbish it and give it a one-year warrantee.

Some other municipalities around the country use biodigesters, but North Elba would be the first in the region. The town and Morgan said throughout this multi-year process that the need for the machine is due to the large number of restaurants in the town, meaning food waste makes up a larger-than-average proportion of the garbage.

COMMENTS