|By Chris Maza|
LONGMEADOW – The town remains on track to state its case for becoming the 111th Massachusetts community earn the Green Communities designation from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER).
Town Manager Stephen Crane said Longmeadow’s application will be submitted prior to the Oct. 30 deadline, crediting the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, as well as a pair of town residents and his predecessor with keeping the town on track.
“David Miller and Andrea Chaison really brought this thing forward and pushed for it and Robin Crosbie did a bunch of work on it,” he said. “Now, the PVPC has stepped up and taken over as our consultant.”
If accepted, the town will be able to take advantage of opportunities for grant funding for certain projects, but Crane added the steps taken to become part of the program in and of themselves are beneficial for the town.
“The programmatic benefit is eligibility for a $10 million pool of grants that the Commonwealth offers for energy efficiency upgrades,” he said. “Operationally, the benefit is getting a better handle on our consumption and finding tangible ways to reduce consumption, and therefore, expenses in the future.”
Currently, Springfield, Holyoke, Monson, Palmer and Granby are among the closest Western Massachusetts municipalities to be named Green Communities, according to the DOER’s website.
Cities and towns must complete five steps in order to be considered for the distinction: the adoption of as-of-right siting for renewable energy or alternative energy generation, research and development or manufacturing; the adoption of an expedited application and permitting process of 12 months or less, the establishment of an energy use baseline inventory with a program through which the town would reduce that baseline by 20 percent in five years, the development of a policy through which the town would purchase only fuel efficient vehicles; and the adoption of the stretch energy code.
Crane said the town has succeeded in developing as-of right siting and the expedited permit process, and has completed its baseline inventory.
Crane said that Miller and Chaison were instrumental in the town’s adoption of the Stretch Energy Code.
The code was adopted after it was approved by residents at the 2013 Annual Town Meeting. According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the code requires new residential buildings of three stories or less to meet an energy performance standard using the Home Energy Rating System3 (HERS). The HERS index scores a home on a scale where 0 is a zero-net-energy home and 100 is a code compliant new home, based on the 2006 code.
The Commonwealth's code requires a HERS index of 65 or less for new homes of 3,000 square feet or more, meaning the building uses 65 percent or less energy as a building following 2006 building codes.
The code requires a HERS index of 70 or less for new homes below 3,000 square feet. It had been rejected when previously brought before the residents for a vote in 2011.
Crane added that the town was in the process of making sure it was within the guideline regarding fuel-efficient vehicles.
“Dave Miller has been helping on a volunteer basis putting the vehicle inventory in the format required by the state,” he said.
He added that heavy-duty vehicles and public safety vehicles were exempt from that requirement, leaving few town-owned vehicles that would be affected.
The one thing that would be a big policy change – and this is something we still need to do some analysis on – is the fact that currently we re-purpose police vehicles to other town departments once they are no longer used for law enforcement,” he said. “Under the policy, if those vehicles, if those vehicles don’t hit certain mile per gallon standards, we won’t be able to do that.”
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