Southwick Board considers Green Communities program

Green CommunitGreen Communities Western Regional Coordinator Mark Rabinsky, seen in the top right, gave a presentation via Zoom to the Southwick Select Board encouraging the town to apply for Green Community designation. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

SOUTHWICK – Southwick could be going green.

Mark Rabinsky, western regional coordinator for the Green Communities division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, met with the Southwick Select Board last week via zoom to tout the Green Communities program.

Rabinsky said there are benefits, including grants, to being designated a Green Community.

“I’m hoping the town will consider joining,” he said. “One of the reasons is our grants program.”

Rabinsky said qualifying communities can receive up to $20 million per year in grants to fund energy efficiency initiatives and innovative renewable energy projects. He estimated Southwick would receive $140,000 from a Designation Grant, which is based on population and per capita income. After that initial grant, the town could apply for additional grants for projects.

“We have five criteria we base on whether or not a community can become a Green Community,” Rabinsky said.

To be designated a Green Community, a town must adopt as-of-right siting for renewable and advanced energy generation, research and development or manufacturing; adopt an expedited permitting process; create an energy reduction plan; adopt a fuel efficient vehicle purchase policy; and adopt the construction Stretch Code.

Rabinsky noted the criteria is municipal, not per business. He said the Stretch Code looks at performance and is a major part of the designation.

The current base code allows for two options for residential and commercial construction, Rabinsky said: Prescriptive and Performance.

Prescriptive includes a checklist of compliance measures and inspections during and post construction. The Performance option, which is what the Stretch Code is based on, includes pre- and post-construction energy modeling and inspection during and after construction.

Members of the Select Board thanked Rabinsky for the presentation and said they would discuss the options at a future meeting.

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