The Haines Borough school board will meet at 7 p.m. on July 14 to hear a detailed presentation and ask questions about a proposal by borough consultant Darsie Culbeck to use wood chips to heat Haines School buildings.

In a brief presentation to the board Tuesday, Culbeck said chip-burning boilers in a new building located near the swimming pool could save the district up to $2 million over the next 20 years, at current fuel prices.

Culbeck told the board the reason he wants to proceed with chips – instead of wood pellets, as previously planned – was that chips could be locally produced. “We can’t make pellets in the community right now, but we can make chips.”

Previous to a borough decision to pursue pellet heat, borough leaders passed over chips as an option. Arguments against chips included that they required handling before burning, including drying, and that they tended to ball together, creating “clinkers” that gummed up chip delivery systems.

Culbeck told the board that quarter-inch “microchips” would be dried one year, leaving them with the “right moisture content” for boilers the borough recently acquired.

Chips previously considered – including ones used at a municipal facility in Craig – were “messy” and “hard to work with,” Culbeck said.

Culbeck said he envisioned the Haines Borough would employ a worker to tend the chip boiler. “There’s more maintenance needed on a chip system boiler than (an) oil (boiler). That’s something we do recognize,” he said.

He said the borough has money to convert 10 buildings over to chip heating, including the public safety building, sewage treatment plant and public library.

Culbeck recently submitted a grant application to the USDA Rural Development Fund for $112,000 to buy a commercial chipper. The borough would seek a request for proposals to have a private firm manufacture chips, Culbeck said last week.

“The borough doesn’t want to be in the business of supplying biomass,” Culbeck said in a CVN interview last week. He said he hoped to have the chip burners providing heat to the school, swimming pool and voc ed building by next summer.

Culbeck, who last week shared the chip-burning plan with members of Lynn Canal Conservation, told the school board a community presentation on the plan would be held noon on July 11 at the assembly chambers.