Marion designated Green Community, awarded $132,672
MARION — The Green Community designation has finally been stamped on Marion. After approving one of the final measures to be granted the distinction at fall Town Meeting, Marion has also been awarded $132,672 for future energy-saving projects.
In a letter sent by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources on Dec. 27, town officials were notified that Marion had been given the Green Community designation, which has been long sought after by the Energy Management Committee.
“With so much conversation being made lately about the environment and our impact on it, this designation as a Green Community comes at just the right time," Town Administrator Dawson said. "I think it all starts at home with everyone being mindful of the ways we can do a better job of protecting our environment and I am proud that the town has been recognized by the state for taking its own steps in doing just that.”
The Green Community distinction was born from the state’s 2008 Green Communities Act. The label opens the door for grant opportunities and technical assistance from the state’s Department of Energy Resources to help reduce energy use and costs.
At Town Meeting on Oct. 25, voters approved the Stretch Energy Code, a set of building requirements aimed at lowering energy costs in new construction. Stretch Code was the one of the five criteria to be a Green Community.
To conform to other criteria, Marion also eased the permitting process for energy facilities, established designated locations for renewable energy projects, purchases fuel-efficient vehicles for the town, and developed a plan to reduce energy use in municipal buildings.
“Meeting these criteria is proof of Marion’s position as an energy leader in Massachusetts, poised to reduce its energy costs, improve the local environment and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with funding through the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program," Nicholas Connors Director of the Green Communities Division wrote in his letter to Selectmen Chair Norman Hills.
After completing the long process of becoming a Green Community, town officials expressed excitement regarding the designation.
“It’s very exciting, it has been a long journey to get here,” said Energy Management Committee member Jennifer Francis. “There are very few municipalities in southeastern Massachusetts that have achieved Green Community status so we feel very happy to be one of those towns.”
Francis said that the committee is excited to seek out additional grant money from the state to improve town energy efficiency. She added that Marion will be eligible to apply for up to $250,000 a year from the Green Community program.
The next step for the town and the Energy Management Committee is to create a list of potential projects and to select the highest priority projects. The recommendations of the committee would be submitted for approval to the Green Communities Division.
Francis said that though smaller projects might not need voter approval, the committee wants to present most projects to residents at future Town Meetings. “We feel that a good way to move forward is to have town buy-in on everything we do, so most likely the projects we approve will go to Town Meeting.”
The Energy Management Committee has led the town’s effort to gain Green Community status since 2013 and 2014 when it promoted the Solar Bylaw, and began to investigate the Stretch Code. More than 100 solar projects have been installed in town since that time.
The committee also helped the town complete a power purchase agreement with Future Generation Wind to net meter electric power to town buildings, saving Marion over $90,000 a year.
There has also been a project to replace all of the town’s inefficient streetlights with LED fixtures for better energy savings, which is nearly complete according to Francis.