Schumer seeks public works initiatives

Sen. Charles Schumer visited Madison County as part of his annual 62-county tour Thursday. He got an up-close look at the Madison County Solid Waste Department's landfill gas-to-energy facility.

The visit comes on the brink of President-elect Barack Obama signing into law a public works bill aimed at stimulating the economy by investing money in infrastructure. Sewer, water and road work are on the short list of top-priority projects. Green initiatives are a close second, and there is $175 billion proposed to get the jobs done.

Schumer urged the audience of about two dozen local legislators to submit to his office any proposals for shovel-ready infrastructure projects they have on hand. He said green building projects don't need to be shovel-ready.

Solid Waste Director James Zecca gave an overview of the Waste Management energy project, explaining how the methane is captured and processed into a usable energy source. He said the facility is about six weeks away from completion.

"I just helped Chautauqua get a grant to do this," Schumer said.

Zecca, with the help of Madison County Industrial Development Agency Director Kipp Hicks, explained plans for a proposed business and industrial complex, the Alternative and Renewable Energy or ARE Park. The park would theoretically benefit from lower cost electricity provided by the Waste Management project, and businesses that could use the waste heat generated by the plant would be recruited to locate there, as well.

Dr. Raymond W. Cross, president of Morrisville State College, talked about a feasibility study underway for a special manufacturing facility that would suit the ARE Park idea. He said the idea is to replace Styrofoam meal trays in New York City schools with trays made of potato starch.

Benefits would come from an increased demand for potato crops in the county. Cross said it would be ideal to get "something like Frito-Lay" to relocate or expand here, and the project could use the cull potatoes from a manufacturer like that to create the trays. The trays would be manufactured here and sold downstate, where they would be discarded with food waste.

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