FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
Over the past 7 years or so, the Town has been making strides to curb the amount of energy our operations consume. We also have done significant work on positioning ourselves to be more resilient to harsh weather events and the impacts of coastal flooding.
The Town completed the work necessary to be designated a “Green Community” under the provisions of a state-wide program. One of the more significant milestones of this program was voter approval of the “stretch” energy code that requires all new construction to meet stricter energy efficiency standards. Thus for the past six years all new construction has met these higher standards. This includes renovation projects as well. Over time, a majority of structures in town will be up-graded. And the standards, which are set in the International Building Code, continue to evolve as construction techniques and the efficiency of appliances and lighting improves.
Municipal energy consumption has dropped as well. Using grant funds, higher efficiency pumps have been installed in our water and waste water plants. New boilers have been installed at the Library. Lighting in all our town-owned buildings have been changed over to use less energy. Better weatherization and insulation have been added to town buildings. And most recently, our streetlights have been changed over to LEDs for a significant savings in energy costs.
Grant funds have also been used to install electric vehicle charging stations behind Town Hall. We anticipate purchasing plug-in hybrid police cruisers in the near future which will reduce our vehicle gasoline consumption. We have teamed up with a nearby solar installation to obtain fossil fuel free energy and we are pursuing additional solar electric panels of our own on our water and sewer plant roofs (a small array is on our Lincoln Street pump station.) The School District installed solar panels on the roof of the middle-high school.
On the solid waste front, the Town has banned single use plastic shopping bags and now we will be banning non-recyclable food containers and straws after voters approved a new by-law at last spring’s Town Meeting. While the recycling market is in a slump currently, it remains important to continue our recycling efforts as there remain strong environmental reason to continue to recycle and markets will eventually bounce back.
Our early adoption of curb-side composting is saving us money and helping the environment as well. Food scraps make up a major portion of the weight of residential waste and by removing this weight our tonnage is reduced thus lowering our disposal costs. Removing organic matter from our trash also means we are now turning this “waste” into a renewable resource (compost is a great fertilizer) and avoid the production of methane gas (a strong greenhouse gas) which organic waste creates if dumped in a conventional landfill.
Through our hazard mitigation efforts we have compiled flood inundation maps, identifying our most vulnerable areas – Sawmill Brook environs, Raymond Street, Ocean Street, the Village core area on either side of the train tracks and around Town Hall, as well as a couple areas in the western end of town. We have focused in particular on Sawmill Brook given the poor condition of the Central Street dam and culvert. This structure will be one of the first we rebuild.
While good progress has been made reducing our municipal energy consumption and identifying areas vulnerable to flooding, much more will need to be done to ensure we are well positioned to handle what could be a challenging weather future, especially if the higher sea level rise scenarios come to past. Public discussions on how best to meet these future challenges will grow in importance in the coming years.