Council moves closer to banning outdoor furnaces

PAT FRIDGEN

The debate on whether to ban exterior furnaces in the Borough of Greencastle continued Oct. 5, with council members on both sides of the issue. Manager Kenneth Womack returned with more information on the units and recommended they not be allowed in city limits.

"In an urban environment these things probably are not suitable," he said. He presented data about the recognized problems of excessive smoke, odor and particulate matter.

While indoor wood stoves are regulated by the EPA, Womack said outdoor wood-fired boilers had no federal standards and most were not equipped with pollution controls. The EPA referred regulatory action to the local level, and Womack found the units were banned in some municipalities.

Because the OWBs typically had short smoke stacks, they didn't disperse emissions well and could cause smoky conditions. One study found the fine particulate emissions from one wood boiler equaled the emissions of 205 oil furnaces or 8,000 natural gas furnaces, and could emit 1.5 tons of matter each year.

"Public health, safety and welfare probably outweigh any good that would come from these things," he said.

Charles Eckstine was concerned with any enforcement because people could burn anything, and banning the OWB units would be a preventative measure before they became prominent fixtures.  Other outdoor burning was allowed for brush and yard waste since the borough offered no alternatives for disposal of those. Duane Kinzer and Paul Schemel had some concern on infringing on people's property rights.

A motion to draft an amendment to the open burning ordinance to prohibit exterior furnaces as a source of heating for buildings passed 5-2. Mark Singer, Michele Emmett, Eckstine, Schemel and Harry Foley were in favor, Kinzer and Craig Myers opposed.

Strategic Plan

Emmett briefed the council on the status of Greencastle's Five-Year Strategic Plan committee structure. Each council member was assigned a liaison position for one goal. They will report to council the activities of the committee working on that goal. Letters will be sent to anyone in the community who has shown any interest in the project, as well as to particular citizens who would have expertise in an area.

Emmett stressed that the committees were neither inclusive or exclusive and that help from as many people as possible was good.

"We cannot pull this off without citizen involvement," she said.

In other business, council decided to hold a worksession Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. to discuss sidewalks. Mayor Robert Eberly asked the members to first determine what they really wanted.

"Do we want the borough to be completely sidewalked? If so, what are the exceptions?" he challenged.

He said if council had clarity, then residents could be invited to address the specifics.