Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Muncy mulls outdoor furnace use

POSTED: March 5, 2008
MUNCY — Outdoor furnace use continues to be the burning issue in Muncy Borough.

With spring fast approaching, more warmth likely will come from the sun rather than fuel heaters by the time a decision is made, but most members of council voiced opinions on Tuesday.

Considering municipalities such as Lock Haven that are banning outdoor furnaces, Councilman Rodney Knier said, “I have a problem with these ordinances.” Newly produced backyard burners produce emissions as clean or cleaner than conventional furnaces, according to Knier.

“I just think an outright ban is, to me, ludicrous,” Knier said.

If the furnace is properly maintained and placed a generous distance from neighboring properties, such a form of alternative energy should be allowed, in Knier’s opinion.

Several years from now, the furnaces may not operate as clean as they do new, according to Councilman Galen Betzer.

Enforcement of what is and what isn’t a nuisance, such as smoke, is subjective to each person, he added.

Although there is nothing on the borough books about outdoor furnaces used for home heating, burn barrels — historically used to burn garbage — were banned years ago.

Betzer said he has yet to see an outdoor furnace that doesn’t emit irritating smoke.

Doing away with offensive odors was a primary purpose of the burn barrel ordinance when it was passed a few years ago, according to Councilman Dana Bertin.

Use of the outdoor furnaces can be considered, according to Councilwoman Karen Richards, but provisions have to be put into place.

Not wanting to see massive stockpiles of wood and coal in residential yards, Richards said, “We can’t just deal with piles of (it) in somebody’s yard.”

From what he’s seen published, resident Barron Zimmers said a variety of fuel options can be considered, including corn pellets, coal and wood.

Chimney height of the furnaces also has to be discussed to ensure they’re high enough to not blow smoke throughout the neighborhood. “I think that’s the biggest issue,” Richards said of the smokestacks.

Letting it be known she agrees with Knier on the issue, Council President Vivian Daily reminded that many families may feel the economic crunch of high heating costs and the affordability of outdoor furnaces may be explored by some.

Borough Solicitor Carl Barlett urged the council to continue to relay ideas to him.

Designed to protect the health and welfare of residents, the ordinance will strive to further regulate outdoor burning.

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