Arlington Energy Committee Minutes 4.13.22

Arlington Energy Committee

Minutes

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

7:00 to 8:30pm

IN PERSON AT THE TOWN HALL and ONLINE

In attendance: Alexandra Ernst, Garret Siegel, Mardi Crane, Karen Lee, Stephanie Moffett-Hynds

Guest: Nick Zaiac

Absent: Mary Ann Carlson, Jenny Murtaugh

  1. CALLED TO ORDER: 7:04pm
  2. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: Approved
  3. SPECIAL THANK YOU to BRYAN DALTON: A motion was made to thank Bryan Dalton—who recently stepped down from the committee–for serving two full years fully involved on the AEC.  All members voted in favor.  His resourcefulness and energy will be missed, and we hope he will still jump in on projects (such as Window Dressers) as time permits. Steph will circulate an electronic card for all to sign
  4. OLD BUSINESS

4.1 AEC tab on town website: Nick pointed out that we do have our own tab now on the website!  Everyone should look at it and recommend what the content should be.  Recollect that there will be a link to another website Mardi will make where more information can be posted and updated as frequently as we are able.  Bryan Dalton was going to help edit the tab on the town website.  Now that he has stepped down from the committee, we will need to appoint someone else to work with Nick.  (Steph would be interested in this job, interfacing with Mardi. This should be discussed before next meeting.)

4.2  Nick reported that he will be putting the town hall attic insulation out to bid.  He remarked how pleased he is that the town has hired Willy Knight as Rec. Park lead.  Willy is a really skilled craftsman and tradesman who will be able to get to a lot of the weatherization jobs that need to get done at the town hall (ie. weather-stripping the doors, etc.).

A discussion ensued about the aging furnace in the town hall. Mardi pointed out one of the obvious issues with it is the amount of oil we are burning.  We have seen the price of fuel oil just about double recently and it looks like it will only continue increase.  Steph pointed out what the committee has repeatedly recommended. The town should look into heat pumps right away so that they can be installed before the furnace breaks down, for two reasons:  the sooner they are installed, the closer the town is to getting a return on the investment (no longer paying fuel bills); and the system would already be in place should the furnace fail. We do not want to be in the position of having it fail in the middle of winter without the pumps installed. This would almost certainly mean suddenly replacing it quickly with another oil furnace for the sake of expedience—which would just lock us into decades more of fuel burning.  Not the way we want to go, if we are serious about our mission of lowering costs for taxpayers and meeting our carbon goals. Mardi urged the town to seek bids for this.

Nick said that he does not think there is an appetite for replacing the furnace this year and that seeking bids right now could have counter-positive results. He thinks it would be prudent to wait until after the insulation is done.  Mardi cautioned that we will be spending a lot on fuel next year, then. 

Alex wondered if the select board has voiced their intention of replacing the furnace with heat pumps eventually and if that is in writing anywhere—is it a stated goal or do they intend to replace it with another furnace?  Nick said that the strategic planning and facilities managing is complex and can be very political.  Garret countered that the committee does not view this work in terms of “politics;” we are allies of the select board, helping to face long-term challenges intelligently so that Arlingtonians can be resilient.  Nick clarified that the select board does see us as partners.

The discussion continued and the upshot was that Nick agreed that there was no harm in getting an estimate on what it would cost to put in the pumps (as opposed to putting it out to bid). He concurred that it would be prudent for us to look into this.  It would be a positive in terms of taxes and the town value.  All agreed that having the furnace as a back up system, in any event, until it no longer functions, is a good idea. Garret further pointed out that the maintenance of the boiler, while potentially expensive, was essential as all geo & air source heat options require the presence of a backup system in case of emergency and the boiler has obvious utility in that role. 

Mardi recommended that we seek an estimate from Rick Coulter who has installed heat pumps at her home to see if he can give us a sense of the cost.  This would be a time-limited estimate on compressors and heads, etc.  This fact-finding information will be important for our overall recommendations and will be important for any grant-writing opportunities that arise.  She said, “forget politics; forget climate change; look at the economics!” Nick said he would talk to Rick.

  • NEW BUSINESS

5.1       Arlington’s Energy/CO2 Emissions Analysis – Mardi & Karen

The committee then went over the impressive draft that Karen and Mardi have started on the status of the town’s buildings and utilities, in terms of efficiency.  Some of the numbers are firm and many still need to be figured out.  The street lights are LED, but the amount we are paying seems way too high, for example. That deserves further scrutiny to find out where the disconnect is. The town’s two water pumps need to be added to the document. Karen pointed out that we will need to discuss the thorny issue of how to calculate CO2 emissions from electricity from GMP.  She recommended that we have Jim or Thomas Hand discuss this topic with us at our next meeting.

Karen recommended that each of the committee members take one of the town facilities to dig into to understand it better and to target a solution(s) to achieve carbon neutrality in each area, as best we can.

Each of us could become the “expert” on each facility’s efficiency. Discussion ensued, as many felt they are not expert enough to do this work.  It may be a question of reaching out to others who are experts to help us.  Both Nick and Alex recommended that we might one to take this one step at a time, working on it together (subcommittee work, perhaps).  Mardi said she could help us to learn how to do the analysis. (She is currently looking at what it could mean to add basalt to the town’s green spaces to greatly enhance carbon sequestration.)

This led to the topic of recruiting more members. As committed and diligent as our current members are, we could get so much more done and experience less burn out if we had more people to help with our initiatives.  It would be great to have more young people—but anyone with a little time and dedicated interest would be great.  Garret and Steph will figure out how to reach out to Bennington College to see if there are any students who would like to help with a specific project; with their computer skills, students today often have a facility with excel and analysis.  And they are deeply concerned about the environment.  Getting down to actual work on the problem should help them feel productive.  The committee also wants to reach out to AMHS again to see if anyone there wants to take part.  Who can go to the school and work on this?  Someone should make an appointment with the principal to discuss next steps.  Meanwhile, it was suggested that we post our upcoming meeting date on Happening in Arlington and Front Porch Forum a week before our meetings, the same time that Steph sends the agenda to Nick.  Invite folks to join us. Steph will draft a brief paragraph saying what we do and why this is something for all of us.

Finally, Mardi asked for us to see if we have any deep pots we can contribute for her tree planting project.  She has purchased 200 seedlings! Ideally, the pots should be 12” deep.

OTHER

            Brief report on final VECAN workshop:  ARPA Funds – Steph reported that she attended the workshop on March 16 and was able to spend time with Katie Buckley who is the state lead on ARPA funds (from the VT League of Cities and Towns).  Katie was very complimentary about what she sees happening in Arlington and said she is happy to talk with Nick any time.  Steph learned a whole lot of other really important things that are relevant to the energy committee, so she will send out a report in advance of the next meeting and it will be on the agenda.

Next Meeting:  Wednesday, May 4, 2022 from 7 to 8:30 at the town hall and online.

Meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.  Minutes by Stephanie.

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