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Town may explore energy grants

Funds would help improve lighting efficiency

Rindge Energy Commission Chair Patricia Martin asked the Select Board during their meeting March 19 to explore options for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funding, and a Senate Bill 123 grant of $2 million to update town lighting infrastructure, in an effort to reduce energy costs.

Martin presented a list to the Board, titled “Items for Consideration,” in which she requested approval for the Energy Commission to look into a number of cost-saving changes for the town.

The list asked for approximately $100 for the replacement of the compact fluorescent light bulbs in the library chandelier with newer LED lights. According to the report, the LED lights would provide more light with the same energy cost.

Select Board Vice-Chair Robert Hamilton also spoke to lighting and told the other board members that the police department had raised issues about the placement of lights in their booking area.

According to Police Chief Frank Morrill, Martin and the Energy Commission already implemented lighting upgrades but will return again to improve the placement of lights - Morrill said there were no issues with the current bulbs, only that some could be moved to optimize lighting.

Martin asked that the Board explore the costs of replacing the sconce lights in the Meeting House Town Hall room – she said that each light contains five bulbs, but not all of them work. She suggested replacing those with LED lights too.

The list also asked the Board to consider an additional $2,000 to replace the streetlights on the common with LED lights.

Martin suggested applying for RGGI funding under SB123, which could potentially award the town up to $2 million for energy improvements. The grant awards money to schools and municipalities for energy efficiency projects and those updates are administered by Public Service of New Hampshire.

Martin said the funding could be used for the purchase of pellet furnaces for the highway garage and fire station. An additional $18,000, the proposal suggested, could “be spent on weatherization work on the fire station and town offices by submitting proposals to PSNH for these projects as well.”

Additional RGGI funding would be sought to replace a boiler at the library.

In closing, the proposal asked that the Energy Commission be granted permission to explore options for building a solar farm. According to the document, the solar farm could supply about two-thirds of the town’s municipal energy.

Select Board member Dan Aho was in support of allowing Martin and the Commission to spend $2,100 for the street lights and chandelier bulb replacements; after his motion, the Board voted unanimously in favor of allowing the Commission to replace the street lights and chandelier bulbs.

“We are chipping away at energy consumption and costs,” said Martin in an email Monday. “Between the last two years we have avoided costs of at least $30K from the projects undertaken by the Energy Commission and the DPW.”

“It’s not much but it’s better than nothing,” she added. “In 2010, we received almost 50K in federal funding that helped with energy audits, lighting projects, and weatherization of the police station.”

Martin said she will be preparing an additional report outlining anticipated savings from the proposed projects, sometime in the next month.

It remains to be seen how Rindge’s vocal group of residents concerned with keeping the federal government removed from town politics will react to these proposed grant applications. The recently-formed Save Our Town Committee, which campaigned throughout the 2014 town election season to oppose any article on the town warrant that requested or involved federal grants or influence - most notably Article 2, which failed at the polls, but if passed would have meant amending current town zoning ordinance to allow for commercial development on the intersection of Routes 202 and 119.

Next the Meetinghouse Oversight Committee recommended Stebbins Spectacular Painting for the contract to paint the Meetinghouse. The Board voted unanimously to award a $28,900 contract to Stebbins to complete the Meetinghouse painting.

Recreation Department Director Craig Fraley asked the Board for approval to purchase a new 66-seat bus to replace an older bus. The older bus would be used by the Fire Department for training and its tires would be reused by the highway department.

Fraley asked that total cost of the bus for $7,700 come out of the recreation department revolving fund. Fraley wanted to be clear that the purchase of this bus does not impact taxpayers or use tax dollars and that it has nothing to do with Article 20, which requested voters approve the purchase of a recreation van and was rejected by Rindge voters at the polls.

The Board voted unanimously in favor of allowing Fraley to purchase the new bus.

In addition the board voted unanimously to allow the Farmers and Crafters Market to use the West Rindge Common, and to consider it a town sponsored event.

Finance Director Ellen Smith asked that the Board reduce the Planning Board budget by $2,000 to be set aside for a Recreational Trails Program grant that the town applied for but did not receive. She also asked that the Board reduce the police department’s $30,000 vehicle line item because voters approved a revolving fund to take its place. She suggested using the additional money for a wage pool to allow full-time officers to receive raises.

The police department has had a high turnover rate with several officers resigning in the last year, citing low salaries. Chief Morrill said he cautioned the Board from reallocating any funds from the police budget. He said it would be unwise with full-time officer turnover as it is.

Mainstay Technologies was contracted by the town to develop a new webpage. According to the Board, the town’s new website is in its final stages before going live.

Hayden James can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or hjames@ledgertranscript.com.

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