REDC awards village of Tupper Lake $1.4M grant for pellet heating; Observatory gets $200K for Astro-Science Center

A woman views the August solar eclipse at the Adirondack Public Observatory in Tupper Lake. 
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

A woman views the August solar eclipse at the Adirondack Public Observatory in Tupper Lake. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — The village and two science centers in this town received $1.76 million in grants as part of the state’s latest round of Regional Economic Development Council awards.

These grants will allow the village to improve its sewer system, put Tupper Lake on the cutting edge of unique energy production and help the village establish itself as a science hub in the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack Public Observatory

The Adirondack Public Observatory received a $200,000 grant to develop blueprints and engineer schematics for the eventual construction of an Astro-Science Center museum, bringing it one step closer to expanding the only public observatory in the Adirondack Park, which boasts some of the darkest skies on the East Coast.

The APO, currently comprised of a roll-off observatory near Little Wolf Beach and an uptown office, will grow to include a sprawling, multi-use museum, complete with a planetarium, lecture hall and a research-grade telescope. This is the third phase of the museum project, which has been in development since the construction of the Roll-Off Roof Observatory began in spring 2012.

“This grant will actually bring us to the point that we are shovel ready for excavation,” APO board President Carol Levy said.

Since it will take some time to raise funds for the actual construction through grants, donations and revenue, the observatory is not planning to rush the design process. Levy said the blueprints, which will be developed by Envision Architects, should be finished in around six months to a year, and she plans to start excavation in the summer of 2019.

Levy said the observatory will be hiring an advertising agency to promote its fundraising.

Village of Tupper Lake

A $1.4 million grant for the village of Tupper Lake was awarded to construct a fully automated wood pellet fired municipal heat system that will take the place of fuel-based heating for several of the village’s larger facilities.

This grant follows up on a $300,000 grant that funded a study on the system and if it could be implemented in Tupper Lake. Pellet fired heat is a unique form of heating where wood pellets and shavings are burned to heat water that is pumped through units similar to standard radiators. Pellet heating is more accurate and less expensive to install than radiators, according to village Mayor Paul Maroun.

Many residents in the village already receive a great price on electric heating through its municipal electric program, however, for those still on fuel oil heating, pellets make a cheaper, more efficient alternative.

“This is biomass; this takes us off the fuel oil line, and foreign oils and pollution,” Maroun said.

This would not replace electric heating in the village and will at first be tested out in its largest, most needy buildings heated by fuel. The grant will fund a building around the size of a single-family home that will house the pellet burner.

Maroun said pellet heating is being tested in Buffalo and Schenectady, and is already used extensively in Scandinavia. The new energy source would heat larger facilities on the edges of the village such as Sunmount and Adirondack Health’s Mercy Living Center, potentially cutting their utility bill in half, according to estimates from Maroun.

Maroun, who leads the Sunmount Board of Visitors, said the center for people with developmental disabilites spends more than $1 million annually heating the expansive facility. Pellet heating could free up a portion of that money to be spent on the facility’s other needs.

The heating system also carries the potential for bringing industry to the village as Maroun hopes a pellet production plant can eventually be built locally to up local production of the new resource.

The village was also awarded a $100,000 grant to fund an infiltration and inflow study of its sewer system to assess its general condition and identify primary sources of extraneous flows to prioritize repairs. Infiltration occurs when ground water seeps into the sewer system through defects in pipes, and inflow is storm water that enters the system directly through connection points.

This “clear water” strains the sewer system with irrelevant water that belongs in storm water sewers, not sanitary ones.

Wild Center

A $60,000 grant for workforce training and development expansion will allow the Wild Center to host four young scientists as fellows at the museum for a year, where they will be trained in museum residency and work in many areas around the Wild Center.

After interviewing for the positions in the fall, the Wild Center has selected four fellows to live in the Wild Center’s intern house near the museum, run animal encounter programming and get hands-on experience in how a museum is operated, according to executive director Stephanie Ratcliffe.

She said the grant will cover housing costs and salaries for the fellows as they provide work for the Wild Center and gain experience in informal science, public interpretation and museum curation.

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