Town continues pursuing energy reduction measures
BY TOM REILLY
Town Administrator Jim Smith said at the Board of Selectmen’s March 18 meeting that he and Sutton town planner Jen Hager are working on a Green Communities grant. He noted the town has achieved its goal of reducing its overall energy consumption by 20 percent over five years. Actually, the town beat that goal, Smith said, cutting costs by 27 percent.
Smith said this makes the town eligible for additional grants and he is looking at replacing the LED lights outside the Early Learning Center and the elementary school parking lot area. He said the cost is in the $20,000 area. He said he was also looking at an energy management system similar to the one being installed for the middle school/high school project. He said it would centrally control the lights rather than have to do this manually.
Smith said there is over $2.5 million available for these grants for communities that are Green Communities and the deadline for applying is March 31. He said he is working closely with the school department, Prism Energy and National Grid to solidify the application.
Selectman David Hall said reducing the town’s energy consumption by this much over five years was an accomplishment not to be overlooked. Grant funding meant the town benefited from being able to do things at a reduced cost. He said Smith championed Green Communities early on, but Smith praised Selectman Michael Chizy for his early support of solar panels on the Early Learning Center which he said led to the town’s being involved in the Green Communities challenge.
Smith next talked about Oakhurst Road, formerly the potential site for a truck stop four or five years ago. Smith said the current plan is to install a solar PV array there. Smith said half of the site of the 2.5 megawatt system would be in Northbridge and half in Sutton. He said the two towns were working with Nexamp, the developer, on a “reasonable PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement on that site. There were still issues to be resolved, he said, including “significant” back taxes (about $25,000) on the property, both in Sutton and Northbridge. Smith said no building permit would be issued until the taxes were paid off, though the towns might allow Nexamp to do site plan development. Smith said the PILOT agreement needed to pass town meeting as well.
Smith said the town was looking at a 20-year PILOT agreement that would be a percentage of the cost of the solar panels and developing the site. Smith said that right now, they are using a figure of $5 million. He said much of this was very tentative but the town was hoping to get $10,000 to $15,000 per year. Smith said it was a great use of the site and would not have much impact on the neighbors.
Selectman John Hebert said he saw Oakhurst development as beneficial to the town and a great improvement over the proposed truck stop from years ago. He talked about all the loud noise and disturbance that would have created in the neighborhood. “Something like this is going to be rewarding,” Hebert said.