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Clarksburg Receives $142,000 Green Communities Grant
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
01:46AM / Friday, February 03, 2017
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg has officially gone green. And the result is a $141,590 state grant to make this town of 1,700 more energy efficient.

Clarksburg was one of 30 new Green Communities announced by the Baker administration on Thursday. They are eligible for grants totaling $6,460,385 to complete renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

Town Administrator Carl McKinney was in the middle of a webinar on the use of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, when contacted on Thursday, and his first response was "Yay!"

"It's been about a 14-month process and a lot of work, a lot of research," said McKinney, who lead the charge over the past year to push the through the application for the competitive Green Communities Program. "I think it will serve the town in crunching our energy consumption and reducing our carbon footprint. ... This is a way to bring in some dollars and reduce our expenses."

The state Department of Energy Resources has awarded more than $65 million since the program's inception in 2010. More than half the commonwealth's municipalities are now designated Green Communities. North Adams was the only other Berkshire community named in this round, gaining a $194,580 grant. Other nearby towns included Blandford, Plainfield and Hawley.

"I'm thrilled that Blandford, Clarksburg, Hawley, North Adams and Plainfield are now designated as Green Communities," said state Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield. "Taking this step to improve their collective efforts to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy is good news for the entire commonwealth."

One of the uses of the grant is for Clarksburg to switch over to all LED lighting in town buildings - and its streetlights.

"We pay $22,000 a year just on streetlights," said McKinney. "Where we want to go is to revert our street lighting to LED."

He expects that switching all to LED will reduce the town's electrical use by 50 to 70 percent and its distribution costs by at least half.  

Also on the to-do list is upgrading insulation and weatherproofing at town buildings, particularly the town garage. Town Hall, an 80-year-old former school, has newer double-pane windows but they could use sealing and weatherproofing around the panes, and the doors let a lot of cold air in as well.

"Those are immediate benefits we're going to see," McKinney said.

What won't be addressed is the school, which is in the middle of a possible building project. It's not a matter of ignoring the school, he said, but it isn't worthwhile to invest in it if the town decides to renovate.

The $141,590 grant is a reimbursement in the first year of a multiyear process; as the town spends on its approved goals, it submits for recompense through the program.

"Once that money is all spent down you can apply for the years two, three, four and five," he said.

Earning the designation required the town meet five criteria before applying. The first was a fuel-efficient vehicle policy adopted by the Select Board in December 2015 and later an energy reduction plan of 20 percent; town meeting adopted a green building stretch code, and by-right siting and expedited permitting for alternative energy production.

According to DOER, "the new Green Communities have committed to reducing their energy consumption amounting to savings of $6,241,862 of energy costs." That's equivalent over five years of reducing greenhouse gas emission by 27,641 metric tons, or taking 5,819 cars off the roads.

"The Green Communities program is an excellent example of how state and local governments can work together to save taxpayer money and promote responsible energy policies," said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement.

McKinney thanked the board for its support in achieving the grant.

"Right now energy is cheap and I think people take that for granted," he said. "I don't. ... This will help in maintaining our costs. Budget stability is better for the town."

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