Town Planner Moving onto New Job

It was with mixed emotions that Marion Town Planner Gil Hilario told the Energy Management Committee that he will soon be leaving for the same position in North Attleboro where he grew up. Hilario’s last day working for Marion will be Monday, August 9.

            “It’s been a great learning experience; I loved knowing everyone here, we became a Green Community,” said Hilario, his comments closing out Monday night’s July 26 public meeting of the EMC. He referenced many projects, including the beginning of electric town vehicles and charging stations. “We’ve done every little thing. This community has really charged ahead.”

            EMC member Eileen Marum told Hilario that he has done a tremendous job and “really grown into the position,” leading Marion in its successful and ongoing pursuit of grant funds that she said have made a “huge impact…. More than you realize.”

            EMC Chair Christian Ingerslev agreed, saying that Hilario has been “invaluable to this committee and does an excellent job.”

            Hilario thanked the members for their words.

            On the prior bookend, the EMC slightly reorganized, but not quite to the degree Ingerslev had hoped after admittedly being thrust into the position of chair, a role he will continue to fill.

            After soliciting nominations, Ingerslev was unanimously voted to continue as chair.

            Alanna Nelson will serve as vice-chair, and Tom Friedman, who was not in attendance, was voted to become clerk effective with the EMC’s next meeting. Nelson made the nomination “because he’s a very thorough person.” Marum acted as clerk for the final time in Monday’s meeting, and member Bill Saltonstall publicly thanked her for fulfilling that duty.

            The larger question for the EMC going forward is the committee’s evolving function, emerging identity, and potential name change. Having notified the Select Board of this interest, the committee recently received a response from Select Board member Norm Hills looking to identify a title and an accompanying mission statement.

            EMC members batted around several variations, ultimately steering away on the word “sustainability” on the advice of alternate member Jennifer Francis, who also believes that the word “green” has become politicized and may not be the right choice for a title that needs to identify the committee’s purpose.

            “Green Communities has been one of the core missions, but I fear it doesn’t say everything,” added Nelson.

            The title the members settled on to pitch to the Select Board is the “Energy and Climate Resilience Committee.”

            Francis recommended a brief mission statement to avoid stepping over the purviews of other town boards, commissions, and committees and at the same time avoid becoming entangled by any particular words or phrases.

            Marion, which has been leasing four 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander compact sports-utility vehicles, needs to decide whether to lease new vehicles or buy out the ones currently being leased. The approximate buyout price for each is estimated to be $18,000. If the town took that approach, the SUVs would be kept five years, then the town would lease or purchase newer vehicles.

            Marum suggested checking in with the Finance Committee before making any recommendation.

            Hilario reported that the employees in the Building Department, Council on Aging, Department of Public Works, and Recreation Department all like the model. He said that Finance Director Judy Mooney could work on a proposal to bring to the Finance Committee.

            Nelson said that the town is down to $5,000 in available money for this purpose, and Hilario said that a $7,500 grant is not enough to pay for replacements.

            Francis is working on developing a tree preservation bylaw, having studied and modified Concord’s. She has worked with Norm Hills and Margie Baldwin and will next bring it to Town Administrator Jay McGrail. The bylaw change could be co-sponsored by the EMC and the Parks Committee.

            “In a nutshell,” said Francis, “the idea is to not tell property owners what they can and cannot do but give them options with the goal of becoming a net-zero tree town.” She called it the best hope of sequestering carbon.

            The bylaw would apply only to living trees 6 or more inches in diameter, the stipulation of removal being to either replace on one’s own property or on an adjacent property with a new tree of at least 2 inches in diameter or pay into a fund to manage trees in other parts of town.

            EMC members asked questions of application to solar projects, to trees threatening houses, and unhealthy trees, among other things.

            Part of Francis’ proposal includes a tree preservation mitigation plan that would necessitate the hiring of an arborist to determine the condition of the tree in question. A tree threatening to fall onto a house could theoretically fall under an exclusion clause and could come under the purview of town Tree Warden Lee Gunschel.

            Saltonstall referenced a situation his son Will was facing with tall evergreen trees on Point Road and, being worried about the house, cut them down. “We’ve done that, too, but I don’t think it’s a big ask (to follow the proposed bylaw),” said Francis, who said she took down a dozen white pines after the Nor’easter storms. She suggested citizens can plant trees somewhere else on their property or pay a fee into the Tree and Parks Committee fund.

            Francis said the goal is “not to be punitive or negative or controlling but to encourage … to make people to think harder when trees get cut down when they build anything.”

            The next meeting of the Marion EMC was not scheduled at adjournment, but Ingerslev confirmed that the committee will meet via Zoom through the end of 2021 while still trying to get onto the schedule at the Music Hall for in-person meetings in 2022.

Marion Energy Management Committee

By Mick Colageo

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