September 6, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 36

Borough pellet boiler option delayed

The Haines Borough will look to the Senior Center instead of the public safety building for installation of a wood-pellet boiler, facilities director Brian Lemcke said this week.

A faulty boiler in the public safety building will be replaced in the coming weeks by another oil-burning one, he said.

“I’m not comfortable with an experiment in this particular building at this time,” Lemcke said. “We have fire equipment in here, the jail, and the police department. If we had a full season to look at it, we could consider it. But I can’t throw the dice on this building.”

There was also a question of whether a proposed pellet boiler was big enough to heat the building, he said. “There were just too many unknowns. Plus, this building isn’t going to be here that much longer, in terms of seeing long-term savings.”

Borough officials – including Mayor Stephanie Scott – are pursuing a pellet heating system for at least one borough facility. They say they’re confident such a boiler can save the municipality up to $100,000 over its life cycle.

A $25,000 study of pellet heat conducted by Alaska Energy Engineering for the borough found pellet boilers would not be economic in several borough-owned buildings, but didn’t look specifically at the public safety building or Senior Center.

Borough officials say other engineers have been critical of the report. They say its estimated maintenance cost of wood boilers is high and its anticipated oil costs are low.

It’s not clear that the difference of opinion between engineers will be resolved.

Scott said use of pellet boilers by the U.S. Coast Guard and Forest Service in Southeast, as well as ones heating apartment buildings at Chilkoot Estates in Haines, make her optimistic.

“There are local examples that give us confidence. People locally are using pellets. If we can bring more pellets to town, we can potentially reduce their cost,” Scott said.

Using pellet-boilers in public buildings is common in Europe, she said.