HUNTINGTON – Denise Keay, chair of the Green Initiatives Committee and member of the Water & Sewer Commission came before the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday to update them on the status of the town’s green community designation, and funds remaining from state grants.
Keay said that she is currently in the process of putting together the annual report for fiscal year 2017, a task which must be completed annually for the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). She said the report requires entering all gas, oil, propane and diesel usage into the NEI website, in order to calculate energy efficiency improvements since the town received its designation in 2012.
Keay said the report is quite arduous, and in the past she has had little support from the selectmen in filling it out. This year, students from the University of Massachusetts had been assigned to help green communities with the data entry. She said they did one table, which left the rest for her to complete. Keay said since the beginning, she and Conservation Commission chair Susan McIntosh have been the only two volunteers working on the green community designation, and it has been a lot of work.
On Wednesday, she asked the two selectmen present, Darlene McVeigh and Karon Hathaway for assistance with some figures before the annual report is due on December 12. Keay also said she would be resigning at the end of the fiscal year as chair of the Green Initiatives Committee.
Keay said that there had been $140,000 left from the original grant, which was used for a new heating system in the library, insulation in all buildings, and electrical work. Approximately $40,000 now remains, which was intended to upgrade the motors in the wastewater treatment plant. Keay said the upgrade should provide the biggest energy savings to date. She said it will also be incredibly difficult to do, because of the requirements of the grant and the need to hire state-approved vendors.
Keay said at one time over the years she was asked to serve on a statewide Green Committee. She said she was the only small town representative in the group, and she kept complaining about the onerous demands on small towns. “They did make changes for small communities because of my complaining,” she said.
“It isn’t an easy project. If someone had told me in the beginning what was involved, I never would have gotten involved to begin with,” Keay said.
She did say that Bernie Kubiak of the Hampshire Council of Governments has been helping to write the grant specs for the water-sewer project. “He’s been extremely helpful,” she said. They have contacted Tighe & Bond for specifications, and will need to advertise an RFP for the project.
Another wrinkle in the grant process is that towns receive only one-third of the grant at a time, and have to put the money up front for projects to be reimbursed. Keay said they have $6,000 in the account for the $40,000 sewer and water project, and the rest would be reimbursed upon completion.
“It’s something to discuss. Do you want to go forward with it,” Keay asked McVeigh and Hathaway. She said that in order to apply for more grant funding, the remaining money must be spent.
McVeigh said that the green community designation is something to discuss with the regional economic development director, to see if the other towns in the Hilltown Collaborative which have the designation could work together. “All the green communities should share the load,” she said. She also said that she does not want Huntington to lose the opportunity for future grant funding.
“You’re going to need someone on the Green Committee,” Keay said.
Jim Gobeille, who has served as Huntington’s Water & Sewer operator for 23 year, will be retiring in March. The Water and Sewer Commission then joined the meeting, and informed the Board of Selectman that Jim Gobeille, the town’s Water & Sewer Operator, will be retiring on March 17 after 23 years on the job.
“What are the plans to hire his replacement,” asked McVeigh.
Commissioner Charles “Chip” Dazelle said they are working on a job description, and have licensed part-time people able to fill in until the new hire begins. He said they are planning to separate the water and sewer jobs because licenses are required for both, and finding another candidate like Gobeille who has both will be expensive. Dazelle said the hours for the sewer position are set by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and requires someone for eight hours Monday through Friday, and four hours on weekends.
For the water position, the commissioners plan to speak with the DEP about mandated hours. “If the DEP says 3 to 4 hours a day for water, that’s a burden on the town,’ Dazelle said. He said the daily tests only take 20 to 30 minutes. He also said they plan to lobby DEP for reduced mandated hours for the water operator.
“They don’t treat small communities much different than they do Boston,” Keay said.
Huntington has 425 water users and 318 sewer users, only 15 to 20 percent of the town’s population. The rest of the town, which has a population of 2,180 according to the 2010 U.S. census, has wells and septic systems.