Arlington Energy Committee Meeting Minutes 5.10.21

Arlington Energy Committee meeting – May 10, 2021 via Zoom, recorded

Next meeting: June 7, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom. Watch for link from Nick Zaiac, or on Town website.

Present: Stephanie Moffett-Hynds (Chair), Mary Ann Carlson, Mardi Crane, Bryan Dalton (notes), Alexandra Ernst, Karen Lee, Garret Siegel.

Guest: Town Administrator Nick Zaiac, Zoom host.

Old Business

  • Town Hall LEDs: Bryan will send Nick links to order sample bulbs to install, test with building occupants.
  • Window Dressers:
    • Next Bennington County WD meeting May 19.
    • Northshire Build site: Former Catholic Church, either Parish Hall or Residence. Sale to Arlington Arts Committee is imminent in coming days. May need volunteers to prep the space.
    • Outreach: Jeff Dexter, Sunderland Energy committee, leads on recruiting.  Reporter Luke from Banner/Journal will write lead article. A blurb is in the works that we can share.
  • Community Solar: Thanks to Karen Lee for the April 21 informational Zoom presentation on how community solar projects work.

Old Business:

  • AEC Goals for 2021: We brainstormed, and agreed we will formally decide the actions we will take through the end of the year, at the June 7 meeting. Meanwhile we can share items and ideas to include in the June 7 discussion, but not debate or take decisions by email outside the warned meeting, to stay within public records rules. (Thanks to Nick for explaining that guardrail).
    • Alex reviewed energy committees around state, many posted on their town websites: Q&A re EVs, videos, one town had EV Ambassadors contacts. Will share links.
      • Idea: Have an Energy Section in Martha Canfield Library, pulling together books in the MCL collection on energy, and loaning out e.g. wattage meters. 
      • Idea: collect and make available information for townspeople on CSAs, Buy Local <20 miles, Lawn Care Eco.
    • Karen: Idea: we hone our resources targeted at specific projects, in a catchy fun format people can use to change their thinking and behavior. If we are truly interested in climate change: two biggest in VT are transportation and heating. As a committee, get out a Toolkit, like the one the Shaftsbury EC promotes.
    • Bryan: let’s copy (and credit) work already done by other entities.
    • Garret: we set out to be energy communicators, e.g. to help people see they can weatherize, save energy and money, reduce impact on climate.
    • Alex: Sunderland EC has a FB page but no one is “liking” the content. People are on devices all day long. Soon we will emerge from homes and talk in person. How best to communicate?
    • Mardi: on FB she posts: 1. Interesting, motivational information on larger topics, 2. Her greenhouse. Rare to get likes on professionally created content on major topics, but gets lots of likes on her own postings about greenhouse from a cross section of people. 
      • Idea: Information on ecological yard care would add value.
      • Idea: Karen and Mardi hope to do more videos: mini profiles of how people in area are doing with EVs, e.g. winter performance.
    • Steph: we need a place for our information. FB Happening in Arlington is extremely popular – genealogy, stories, happy news, garage sales, missing dogs, non-Arlington information of concern to Arlingtonians. Got lots of response and re-sharing re Green Up Day.  It is the town square, so we need to post there.
      • Idea: post weekly, maybe rotating responsibility among AEC members?  How to reach people without FB? 
      • Idea: Go to businesses and institutions to ask what they’re doing eco-wise, cutting energy, carbon footprint, and offer to publicize that; or help them move ahead on reducing their carbon footprint.
        • Bryan: we could help companies and institutions in town summarize what they’ve done, like The Barn Restaurant in Pawlet has on its website:
          • From http://barnrestaurant.com/place/: “Sustainability is important to them. Hot water comes from solar panels on the roof. Landfill contributions have been reduced by nearly 70% through a robust recycling program, and using all leftover foods to feed local chickens and pigs! Heat pumps have replaced traditional air conditioners throughout, and have reduced summertime electricity use by half.”
  • Nick: Select Board are planning to re-do bulletin board in front of Town Hall, with governmental and committee notices.
    • Karen: education sounds like the major function of the AEC. GNAT and CATV available. Need to get in touch with, and have in videos, young adults, middle agers, kids.  Open conversation via saving money, energy.
      • Idea: ASAP, propose through town for a grant from the $2.5 billion in economic recovery funds the Federal Government is giving Vermont. Gov. Scott is talking of putting $1 million of it to work on climate change.  In her experience, in addition to social media post cards sent to every postal patron are the most effective vehicle for communication; send Arlingtonians concise resources, actions they can take, and AEC contacts.
    • Nick: please flag info we find on funding to him.  He can help write grants, though his priority will be on water and sewer.  Grants for Arlington projects are usually co-written between him and someone who follows an issue with passion. That’s how we get these non-core-infrastructure grants.  Make it not about marketing, but outreach and education.
    • Garret: Idea: there still is a lot can be done in Arlington in energy upgrades in public buildings. Just began with LEDs for Town Hall. We have a lot on the list we already wrote up. G will send it around again.
    • Nick: building upgrades to improve energy performance are likely to succeed in getting funding.
    • Steph: concerned about lack of bike lanes in Arlington. Dangerous and a disincentive to people wanting to save energy by biking.
    • Nick: please send him suggestions on which roads would be suitable for bike lanes and pedestrian ways.  Has been working for 6 months on bike lane projects. There’s always money for this. Found we cannot do much to flag gravel roads for pedestrians or high bike volumes, only add bike lanes to paved roads. Route 7A and Warm Brook Rd are an obvious choice. He is also on Regional Transportation Advisory Committee, need to include bike lanes and sidewalk enhancements in our profile. Both save energy.  Most potential sidewalk areas are already in Town right of way (ROW) and do not pose eminent domain challenges.  For bike lanes on roads, the question is how much ditch do you disturb and can you re-do the drainage. Key question is: is there demand?  Our sidewalk network already connects the most dense part of town; where are the gaps? (Steph has a list).
    • Mardi: obvious destinations are school, library, Rec park. 
      • Idea: Research where students and teachers live who might use bikes to the schools, library and Rec Area.
      • 313 to NYC is used for recreational biking.
    • Nick: did a grant to add, improve parking and signage to direct gravel bikes to River Road. Those bikes are the trend, the area is beautiful, foresaw good signage signs warning drivers, good parking for bikes but found those elements did not rise to the grant threshold. Route 313 is narrow; hard to add to the ROW.
      • Idea: signage on 313 so drivers know they are sharing the road.
  • Steph:
    • Summit on the Future of Vermont, May 26-27, 1-5 PM. Register at FutureofVermont.org
    • Mowelectric.org to grow the electric lawn care movement. Well-designed website where people can enter their own information to see comparison of gas vs electric lawn care equipment.  Grounds crews of Middlebury, Montpelier are no longer using gas mowers; found they loved the electric models, powerful, no fumes. Good for ARL Rec Park.
      • Idea: ask MOW if they want to come give presentation.
  • Bryan: we can’t do everything we have brainstormed about. But if, for example, in addition to our commitment to run the Window Dressers Build and staff a booth at the Farmers’ Market we decide and build a good public/online platform and system through which we inform and educate townspeople going forward, it would be transformational.
  • Nick:
    • for internal AEC communication that meets public records rules that would comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, email is the best option. All communication about the AEC is official.  It doesn’t contravene records rules to consider what is to be on the agenda for the next meeting, but debating pros and cons of issues via email gets hazy in public records terms.
    • AEC can post on the Town website information that is fixed, such as online resources on energy savings and weatherization or how to contact the AEC, along the line of the Ordinances page.  Not yet ready to host news and updates.  For now, FB is the best platform for current content.  He will put a tab for the AEC on top bar.
    • Town Websiteis due for redesign so people can easily find AEC, other groups.  Nick will also take over Arlington Area Renewal Project (AARP) website, since its funding has expired and are rolling their functions over to other groups in town and persons; a good site for non-governmental postings.  AARP is planning an end-of-COVID event soon.  Was not meant to be a permanent NGO.
    • As of July 1, AEC may meet in Town Hall.

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