BURLINGTON - The Board of Selectmen supported an Energy Reduction Plan to take another vital step in Burlington formally joining the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program.
The Green Communities Designation and Grant Program, an initiative of the Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, provides funding to qualified municipalities for energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives once designated as a Green Community.
The town previous considered the designation in 2010, but officials decided not to pursue it due to two uncertainties.
First, the designation required the town to adopt the state’s Stretch Energy Building Code. At that time, the code was more stringent than the ordinary building code and there was concern it would put the town at a competitive disadvantage for developers by increasing the cost of construction. Since that time, the discrepancy between the two codes has narrowed “significantly” and has gotten closer to the Stretch Energy Building Code each year.
“Then-Burlington Inspector of Buildings John Clancy said almost all new commercial construction is being built closer to the Stretch Energy Building Code,” disclosed Town Administrator Paul Sagarino, Jr. “I talked to an area homebuilder and he indicated to me that they already build to the Stretch Energy Building Code in all the other communities they work in, and buyers want energy efficient homes when they are purchasing these days.”
Secondly, the designation called for the town to only purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2010, there was uncertainty regarding fuel-efficient vehicles and how they would perform, and whether or not police cruisers would be electric.
“Since that time, there is not anymore uncertainty,” confirmed Sagarino. “Public safety vehicles are exempt, and we are already purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles every opportunity we can.”
Sagarino cited the designation provides a roadmap, along with financial and technical support to municipalities. The pledge of the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program is to cut municipal energy use by 20 percent over the next five years in Massachusetts. Of the 351 communities in Massachusetts, 240 are designated as a Green Community. Burlington isn’t currently one of them, along with only Wilmington, in terms of neighboring communities.
If Burlington is accepted into the program, the town would receive an initial $170,000 grant from the state, upon acceptance. From that point on, the town would be eligible for competitive grants of up to $250,000 each year.
This program is clearly something Burlington officials want the town to be a part of.
“We discussed it with our facilities people, and there is no shortage of energy efficient projects that we already have on our Capital Plan, which these grants could be used for in funding and taking the burden off the taxpayers,” avowed Sagarino.
Sagarino confirmed Department of Public Works (DPW) employees, especially Rachel Caplan (DPW Operations Analyst) and DPW Director John Sanchez, were integral in completing the required Energy Reduction Plan that is expected to reduce the town’s energy use by 20 percent over the next five years.
“Consider this plan a living document that will continually be updated over time,” explained Sagarino. “Our team will meet annually to discuss the energy reduction results and make any necessary changes.”
Sagarino reiterated there are no negative ramifications to the town if the 20 percent energy reduction goal isn’t met.
Rachel Caplan, DPW operations analyst and brainchild of the Energy Reduction Plan, outlined the path taken in order to get to this point. The Energy Reduction Plan is considered “Criterion 3” out of five principles.
With the Energy Reduction Plan approved by the Board of Selectmen, all the criterions have been supported and handled accordingly. First passed was Criterion 1, calling for new zoning and designated locations for as-of-right siting for potential redevelopment and research manufacturing possibilities. Criterion 2 consisted of expediting an application for permitting. Criterion 4 pertained to adopting a fuel-efficient vehicle policy. Criterion 5 adopted the stretch code, which Town Meeting approved last May.
The Selectmen unanimously approved the Energy Reduction Plan, expressing effusive praise for the excessive, required work conducted by Caplan and the rest of the DPW employees involved.
“It is incredible the amount of data in this incredibly well-done report,” lauded Selectman Michael Runyan. “The work on this plan and the detail is incredible.”
With all the required approvals, the town is expected to become an official member of the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program by the end of 2019.