Business carbon impact worksheet   Household carbon impact worksheet

Read the large print

The decision a few weeks ago by the Town of Callicoon Town Board to reject a municipal solar project that would have been fully funded by New York State and its agencies left us dumbfounded. We have found it difficult to come up with a more trenchant response than “huh?” Fortunately, the void was filled eloquently by many of our readers on our Letters to the Editor pages, who detailed their astonishment that town officials would turn down the chance for an essentially free renewable energy system.

We can’t help wondering whether the public reaction made evident in these letters had some impact on the compromise reached Monday night, which calls for bids on a scaled-back project. But we still regret that the Town of Callicoon did not fully seize the opportunity that has been presented here for bold leadership in the renewable energy field at minimal cost. As detailed in “Callicoon Compromise” on page 1, one part of the compromise reached was to place panels on poles in an adjacent field rather than on the roof of the town barn. To the extent that evidence was presented that placement of solar panels would void the warranty on the roof, this seems like a reasonable solution.

But the continued refusal to implement a project at the town hall is baffling. One excuse given was that some utility poles and lines would cast shade on the panels. But an engineer, who presumably knows more about the matter than town politicians, testified that the shading would be negligible. Concerns were also voiced that some stray foul balls from the nearby ball field might hit the panels. This kind of excuse sounds to us like a grasping at straws.

One town official noted that he had not been elected to be a tree-hugger. Maybe not. But he was certainly elected to manage the taxpayers’ money in an effective and responsible manner. To obtain a source of energy for municipal buildings at close to zero installation cost, and at zero fuel cost over coming years, surely fills that bill. To go ahead with a project for the town barn, but balk at doing so for the town hall, is accordingly a partial abdication of fiduciary responsibility.

Some have objected that solar energy is not quite as free as it might appear to be. After all, there will be annual operating costs like maintenance even if it isn’t necessary to buy fuel. True. But there are also annual operating costs of traditional systems—in addition to the ever-rising cost of non-renewable fuels. The question is not whether there are operating costs, but whether they are lower. Again, solar is the clear winner. Will the cost of solar installation go down in the future? Who cares, if it’s fully subsidized now and won’t be later. Most likely, given the trend of 21st-century technology, the Town of Callicoon will someday put solar on their town hall. And whatever it costs, local taxpayers will foot the bill for the whole thing.

But perhaps the most disappointing part of the whole affair is the failure in vision. Just last Tuesday, the headline of the Times-Herald Record blazoned: “Solar energy fuels local job growth.” Solar and other renewable energy sources are the way the winds of growth are blowing, and those who recognize this and seize upon it can reap huge economic benefits. While obsessing about the fine print of utility-pole shades and foul balls, members of the Callicoon Town Board are missing the large print: the possibility that Sullivan County can find a powerful 21st-century economic identity as a leader in green technologies.

Such an economic future would be attached to far higher standards of living than gambling—the last choice of the poor and desperate—or indiscriminate gas drilling, which could leave the area an industrial wasteland. The county has already begun to move in a green-industry direction. We are glad to see that Callicoon is willing to take a small step along with it by having the solar project rebid. But by scaling it down, they have left one foot planted firmly in the past of outdated technologies, when they could instead have been leading the county at the crest of the wave.

Also in this issue:

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Dr. Punnybone

Balled Eagle

Letters to the Editor

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The River Reporter welcomes letters on all subjects from its readers. They must be signed and include the correspondent's phone number. The correspondent's name and town will appear at the bottom of each letter; titles and affiliations will not, unless the correspondent is writing on behalf of a group.

Letters are printed at the discretion of the editor. It is requested they be limited to 300 words; correspondents may be asked to cut longer letters. Deadline is 1:00 p.m. on Monday.

Letters can be sent by e-mail to]

Justice not served

To the editor:

It seems to me that those appointed to office in our system need to know they are serving the people with “We trust in God.” If this truth were practiced every day with everything we say and do, justice would be truly served.

How in God’s name can they sleep knowing that one man voluntarily drinks alcohol, which we all know hinders your thoughts, words and actions, and winds up killing a beautiful, talented young woman, who had a lot to offer the world, and serves four months? Is this not a felony? Where is the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?

On the other hand, here is a lovely, educated couple operating a beautiful business that serves its clientele with peace and honor. Mr. Morris has fallen through the cracks of the minds of the appointed. He did not ask to contract Lyme disease. Is it his fault the doctors did not detect this serious illness before it totally engulfed his physical and mental being?