February 25 2019

Selectmen Take First Step to Joining State's Green Communities Designation and Grant Program

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Selectmen voted on Monday night to begin the process of joining the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program to take advantage of state funds while making Burlington a more green-friendly community.


The program is run by the state’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and offers incentives, in the form of grant money, for communities to seek more energy efficient buildings, vehicles and utilities. If Burlington were to join it would receive $173,000 in an initial grant and then be eligible to apply for competitive grants.


In total 240 cities and town in Massachusetts have joined the program, including many of Burlington’s neighbors. Since joining, for instance, Bedford has received $836,343, Woburn as received $1,455,539 and Winchester has received $1,362,722.


The grant money can be used on energy-efficient and renewable energy programs and innovative green projects.


In order to be accepted a community must agree to some provisions laid out in the program. These include having expedited permitting for renewable and alternative energy generation, research and development and/or manufacturing. A town or city must also create a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent in five years in all municipal buildings such as town hall, schools and water facilities.


Further, they must also purchase fuel efficient vehicles with some exemptions such as fire engines, ambulances and large DPW trucks.


Finally, the program requires that “municipalities minimize the life-cycle cost of all newly constructed homes and buildings.” DOER recommends communities do this by adopting Massachusetts’ Board of Building Regulations and Standards’ Stretch Code. Buildings constructed to the Stretch Code use significantly less energy than buildings built to other current and previous building codes. The stretch energy code establishes energy provisions above those required by the base building code and involvement in the program would require all new commercial and residential constructions to meet those more energy-efficient standards.


Members of the board were open to exploring the program and moving on to the next step, which would be to get approval by Town Meeting either in May or in September. The deadline to apply is late October.

Selectman Jim Tigges, who had seen the full presentation from DOER at an earlier date, was especially enthusiastic.


“When I saw this full presentation I said we would be unwise not to go forward with it,” he said. “Our new buildings would be much more efficient. It would improve the environment and improve efficiency so I think money would be saved in the long run.”


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