The Marion Energy Management Committee has made no secret of its desire to see the town’s two major construction projects, the new Marine Center at Island Wharf and the new Department of Public Works operations center at Benson Brook, go green, as in net-zero energy.
Monday’s public meeting was only the latest platform for this discussion, and the EMC is trying hard to get its message heard, not only in terms of environmental concerns related to climate change and what it sees as an enormous opportunity to be a grassroots-level leader in a trend away from fossil fuels, but also in terms of economics.
EMC Chairman Christian Ingerslev told the committee on Monday that Town Administrator Jay McGrail is aware of the committee’s belief that net-zero energy will save more in lifetime costs than it will cost the town in up-front expense.
“It’s a question of which one of these wins,” said Ingerslev.
EMC member Bill Saltonstall was impressed with mini-split heat pumps used in Plymouth’s recent construction project and noted its attractive architectural design, but Saltonstall said the concern now is a lack of power. “We really don’t have enough of our own electric power for our municipal facilities in Marion. I’m still interested in putting some solar somewhere,” he said.
Saltonstall said that the heat pump yet to be installed at the Community Center has been held back by a delay on the delivery of equipment but that Facilities Manager Shaun Cormier thinks it can be installed by the end of the summer. Saltonstall also reported Cormier’s suggestion that a heat pump replace the oil-fired boiler at Fire Station No. 2 on Point Road. But, as Saltonstall reported, that station does not have a source of electrical power.
Saltonstall is trying to identify new projects that would qualify for Green Communties grant funding.
Being a new construction, the Marine Center is not eligible, but the piecemeal work on the Town House, including a budgeted $250,000 for heat pumps for the entire building is drawing his attention. Saltonstall said the quote came in at twice the amount that was budgeted.
Given the Town House’s heat emanates from a gas-fired boiler, Saltonstall suggested the EMC go back to Energysource to do the study. He has also identified the new energy-efficient transformers at Sippican School as another project warranting evaluation for Green Communities eligibility.
“We don’t have a definite answer as to how the town can provide additional solar power or additional electric power use,” said Saltonstall, reporting that McGrail indicated that the town has new legal people working on that issue.
The EMC’s long-standing effort to bring a solar array to the Benson Brook landfill is running up against escalating costs. The committee is waiting on final numbers before deciding on whether to go ahead. Ingerslev said that if lease payment drops, the project may not be worthwhile.
According to committee member Alanna Nelson, Eversource says it will cost $750,000 to bring the project onto the grid. Who bears the cost can be negotiated, but negotiations are a double-edged sword because, the more the developer has to pay, the less it will have remaining to pay a lease to the town.
“We’ve got to start planning for the power we’re going to need for the heat pumps,” said Saltonstall, who said he still does not understand why the town cannot proceed with solar under a lease agreement. He pointed to towns on Cape Cod constructing solar canopies atop parking lots and active cranberry bogs.
Ingerslev said that McGrail thinks the EMC should plan on carports and solar panels at the police station on Route 6, the lingering question being how to fund it. Nelson said the parking lot at the station is not large enough for a lease agreement.
The EMC also discussed Marion’s Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan status, noting the need for signage. Marum said that people evacuating need to have a destination, “a secure, unobstructed route” without culverts that would wash away. She suggested that the committee seek assistance from the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD.)
Ingerslev told the committee that the Select Board will not make Jennifer Francis a full voting member until it will leave the EMC with an odd number of members.
Ingerslev told the EMC that he resent a letter to the Select Board on June 8 regarding the committee’s interests in redefining its scope and name. Now that Toby Burr has replaced John Waterman on the Select Board, the EMC is eager to readdress ongoing matters of concern. Francis recommended using a meeting with the Select Board to address many concerns including the use of fossil fuels to heat the new Marine Center and new DPW.
Marum was disappointed that not one committee member was appointed to the newly formed committee watching over the construction of the new DPW.
“When I look at those that have been appointed, I don’t think there is anyone who is going to be an advocate for clean energy,” said Marum, who applied for a seat on that committee.
Ingerslev said that 19 people applied to fill four open spaces and that McGrail asked him to address the committee. “We will get representation that way,” he said. “They did not want anybody from the EMC on there.”
Ingerslev also noted that Chris Collings’ interest in joining the EMC will not come to fruition after he was told that his existing committee involvements are enough.
The next meeting of the Marion Energy Management Committee is scheduled for Monday, July 25, at 5:00 pm.
Marion Energy Management Committee
By Mick Colageo