Cheektowaga looks to a “clean fleet” to reduce carbon footprint

Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Richard Coburn shows a hybrid car to Councilmembers Linda Hammer, James Rogowski, and Alice Magierski on October 10th. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Richard Coburn shows a hybrid car to Councilmembers Linda Hammer, James Rogowski, and Alice Magierski on October 10th. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – The town’s plan to spend up to $250,000 through a clean energy grant from New York State is coming into focus.

The town was designated a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority at the end of August and can now apply for a grant of up to $250,000.

A project that would replace 10 town vehicles with either electric or hybrid models was presented to the town board during their work session Tuesday night.  The town would lease the vehicles for three years.

“We haven’t determined whether to go all electric or hybrid.  Right now the conversations are we might split that to find out which cars perform best in our first three-year go around,” said Richard Coburn, Supervising Code Enforcement Officer.

The town’s building department will get to drive the vehicles first.  Each field inspector drives around 25-30 miles each work day and visits an average of 6,000 homes a year.

The town hasn’t received the grant money yet and the total funds are depended on the type of project Cheektowaga puts forward. The state will look at the greenhouse gas savings, sustainability of the program through the future, and if other municipalities can replicate the program.

“This is perfect for that.  People are going to look at this and say, ‘wow this is awesome, they saved money, they’re eligible for grant money, and they can do this without costing their taxpayers any money,’ other communities are going to jump onboard with this,” said Jason Kulaszewski, Clean Energy Coordinator at the UB Regional Institute, School of Architecture & Planning.

The project also calls for the construction of a $100,000 solar array which will not only charge the cars but will also provide energy back to the grid which could pay for the cost of the cars.

“The solar array is kind of a nice piece of icing on the cake sort of speak because it helps us reduce our greenhouse impact and it allows us to have energy available to charge these cars and also if we have excess amount of energy that the solar array produces, we can sell that back to the grid and realize an economic benefit,” said Peter Johnston, Assistant Town Engineer.

The town board was able to see a modal hybrid car following the conclusion of the presentation.  Currently, vehicle manufacturers have around 10-15 models on the market but that number is expected to grow in the near future and Mr. Coburn says the clean fleet can be expanded in the future.

Councilmembers Linda Hammer and Christine Adamczyk check out a hybrid car outside the town hall on October 10th. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Councilmembers Linda Hammer and Christine Adamczyk check out a hybrid car outside the town hall on October 10th. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

“If we keep this going, we get to pick different models for the purpose of our fleet as well as other town departments,” added Mr. Coburn.  “Vans and trucks are coming online so there is an effort where we believe we could be eligible for a lot more grants in the future with this designation and adopting this clean fleet.”

The project was created by a working group comprised of Camille Brandon of lobbyist firm Bolton-St. Johns, Assistant Town Engineer Peter Johnston, Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Richard Coburn, Town Planner Daniel Ulatowski and Jason Kulaszewski the Clean Energy Coordinator at the UB Regional Institute.

The town board will take up the project for final approval at a future meeting.