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Local wood pellet shortage causes problems for homeowners

By ANNA MEILER

MARCY, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Central New York is experiencing the coldest winter in nearly a decade and heating homes have been a pain for almost everyone. Many will see increased numbers on their electric bills next month, while a decrease is causing a problem for other homeowners.

On Tuesday, a quick trip to the store for a bag of wood pellets turned into more of a scavenger hunt for Charlene Wilcox.

"Oh my God a nightmare today," she said.

She wasn't the only one coming up empty.

"They're just running out of them constantly everywhere, everywhere," said Joe Lints, a resident of West Utica.

Countryside Stove and Chimney is rationing their remaining supply, allowing customers to purchase only 10 bags at a time.

"We just got a shipment last week and we're not due for another one until the middle of March and we're going to run out probably by the end of the week," said Kate Pletl, manager of Countryside Stove and Chimney.

At the New England Wood Pellet plant in Schuyler the machines are going nonstop. They make over 200 tons a day but are still struggling to keep up with demand.

Company officials say the consistent subzero temperatures have created the highest demand for wood pellets since the plant was built in 2008. Now many Central New Yorkers are wondering how they're going to heat their homes.

"They're aggravated, they're frustrated which I can't blame them, but what are you going to do?" said Pletl.

Pellet stoves are a cheaper heating option, but with the shortage some may have to fall back on their furnaces.

"A lot of people can't afford it, but if you can't get the fuel I don't know if we have any other choice," said Pletl.

While those who rely solely on their pellet stoves are trying to conserve.

"Blankets, cutting off some rooms, but when you do that it blows your water pipes. This year's been really bad," said Lints.

Many hope the warmer temperatures at the end of the week will carry them through until stores get new shipments.

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