B y Lee Tugas
If you are an amateur carpenter on the prowl for scrap wood to build a bird house, or fix your porch steps, don’t bother the workmen at the construction site in the Whitehall Municipal Center.
Yes, a 5-foot-wide by 20-foot long pile of scrap wood litters the floor of the town and village courtroom suite begin built in the center of the Municipal Center. But as a workman told this amateur craftsman, “That wood’s spoken for. They burn it at the highway garage.”
Supervisor George Armstrong grinned through his cold, as he confirmed that the pile of scrap 2-by-4, wainscot paneling and 2-by-7 planking was earmarked for the wood furnace inside the town highway garage located on Route 4 near Buckley Road.
“Every bit of wood from the construction job is picked up and brought to the town highway department for heat,” Armstrong said. “They also burn brush wood that they clear.”
Makes economic sense and gives good heat
Armstrong did not even need to say burning scrap wood made good economic sense.
A full cord of firewood ranges in average price from $125 to $200, according to the website frugal-living-freedom.com. In contrast, the price for a gallon of fuel oil in the Washington and Warren County area inches each winter closer to $4 a gallon.
At the highway garage, town justice Bob Putorti, a veteran of the highway department, pointed to the oil furnace and noted that it was turned off; instead, three streams of comforting warm air blew into the garage from three vents connected to the blower motor of the department’s wood-burning furnace.
The doorknob to the furnace room was missing. Putorti explained that the blower motor was so strong that without a cold air vent (the doorknob hole) the motor could suck the air right out of the furnace room.
Putorti confirmed that the highway garage was primarily heated by firewood, be it bought, brush or scrap. The only restriction is “pressurized wood,” Putorti said.
“We only burn non-pressurized wood,” he said.
The powerful blower motor, shaped like a steel wheel, is more than 2 feet in diameter. A 20-wide, 10-foot-high stack of cordwood rests in a shed just off the furnace room. Putorti seized a 2-foot-long piece of firewood and tossed it into the fiery maw of the wood furnace.
With the outside temperature about twenty-degrees, the wood burning furnace, and its three powerful air vents, easily warmed the cavernous garage.