It’s only in the exploratory stages, but the Marion Board of Selectmen’s decision to wait before taking to Town Meeting floor what appears to be an inevitable request for funding for a new Department of Public Works facility has piqued the interest of the town’s Energy Management Committee.
The resultant window of time has Energy Management Committee member Bill Saltonstall on a fact-finding mission regarding the proposal of a 10,000 square foot building near the Benson Brook transfer station and the water tower.
“I thought it would be worthwhile to try to make this building energy-efficient,” Saltonstall told Monday night’s Zoom meeting of the committee. “We have a great opportunity to do a ground-breaking building for Marion if we did it right.”
The way Saltonstall sees it, a new DPW building used to maintain heavy and lighter vehicles would likely require a simple design on a concrete slab for all-season maintenance. He envisions a ground-source heat pump taking advantage of nearby wetlands to produce radiant heat particularly effective in a garage space where doors frequently open and close. And there would likely be room on the roof for solar panels.
Saltonstall called it “a good time for us to get involved.”
Both Saltonstall and Town Manager Gil Hilario reported having discussed the concept with Board of Selectmen Chairperson Randy Parker, whose support is tempered by concern over the cost.
Hilario, who had received word of a potential grant that would cover tHilario, who had received word of a potential grant that would cover the cost of engineering, reported to the committee that he had told Parker that the grant would be worthwhile to apply for if the design of a new DPW building meets sustainability requirements. “I think it’s been positive so far and is going in the right direction,” said Hilario.
Christian Ingerslev, the chairperson of the Energy Management Committee, suggested that the up-front cost will not be the result of an energy-efficient building as much as its heating system and maintaining the ground source. Saltonstall and Hilario will continue to research the potential project, and Ingerslev said, “We can see who can handle it once it gets started.”
In his report on Marion’s Mass Energy Impact Program, Saltonstall indicated that there are mitigating factors that can enhance or obscure the progress the town is making on its five-year timeline to achieve a 20 percent energy-output reduction.
Marion’s community center, formerly a VFW hall, is part of that energy-gobbling scenario. “The use of the building has grown considerably; we heat it, we electrify it… It looks awful,” said Saltonstall of the statistics. But he also suggested that the town property on Atlantis Drive that has been sold but not closed upon will result in a step down once out of the picture.
Hilario said Marion’s Green Community Planning is waiting on a grant application and expects a decision by August 17.
The Community Center is without heating and is waiting on a grant application for a new furnace. Either way, said Hilario, by grant or funding approved at the June 22 Town Meeting, the Community Center will be heated next winter.
Hilario said the town received mixed advice on the purchase of a furnace/boiler but has since learned that a heat pump system is more eco-friendly, only to find out it’s too late to change the application. “We really want to prioritize heat-pump systems in the future. It’s been an education for the committee,” said Hilario.
Hilario reported that the feedback on Marion’s hope to maximize the usage of Benson Brook landfill by expanding its proposed solar array to cover the slopes was negative. While Hilario was told the panels have to be aligned parallel and that the way they were positioned cannot accomplish much, he suggested economics influenced the negative feedback.
As a Green Community, Marion is eligible to apply for up to $300,000 in grants annually, and the Energy Management Committee has conducted building audits and energy analysis to help the town spend its money wisely. Ingerslev pointed out that Marion is required to spend any approved funds before it can apply for more so short-term projects often become the focal point.
The Green Communities program baseline fiscal year is (July 1) 2018 so Marion has roughly two years remaining to achieve its target reduction.
All street lights within Marion’s control are now LED, while vehicle energy is down in 2020 and so is its water/sewer-related electricity by a slight amount.
“I think we can definitely say that we’ve been working hard in the right direction,” said Ingerslev.
“Bill has made tremendous progress,” said Hilario, noting that supply and distribution data has been updated on Saltonstall’s watch.
Saltonstall, who sits on the board of directors of the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC), reported that Executive Director Liz Argo is leaving her position. “She just knows a lot about solar and wind and what the towns have been able to do to bring these to the Cape,” he said.
Marion is looking into increasing the number of charging stations it has for electric and hybrid vehicles. The only existing station is tucked in the back at the harbormaster’s office where parking is tight. After discussion, members of the committee were asked to visit the parking area across Front Road from the Music Hall and be prepared to discuss the angled stretch closest to Front Street and adjacent to handicapped parking spots as a potential second charging station. Ingerslev suggested laying cable for four spots and constructing two spots. According to Hilario, Eversource would pay to upgrade the electrical source and Marion would supply the power.
The committee is also planning to learn about hybrid vehicles that could potentially function as a police cruiser, the motivation being the lengthy stretches in which police vehicles are required to idle for hours but could do so more efficiently.
Prospective candidates for Energy Management Committee membership Alanna Nelson, Alex Roy, and Tom Friedman attended Monday night’s meeting and spoke of their interests and experience.
Friedman described himself as “a very early adopter of energy-efficiency methods,” while Nelson was the co-chair of Melrose’s energy commission over the last six months and Roy is an attorney in compliance-risk management for MIT.
The next meeting of the Marion Energy Management Committee is scheduled for August 24, but a special follow-up meeting was expected to be held midweek to discuss the membership size and the three candidates under consideration.
Marion Energy Management Committee
By Mick Colageo