Thursday August 9, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Richmond and Great Barring ton were formally designated as "green communities" Wednesday by state officials, who awarded the towns about $140,000 each for local energy-efficiency projects.

The designation makes the towns eligible for future state grants and is the culmination of a series of energy-reduction initiatives undertaken by the towns over the past year.

Representatives from the two towns described the process of earning the classification as hard fought.

"Initially, when we started, we heard comments like, ‘over my dead body'," said Steve Patterson, the chairman of Richmond's energy committee. "Once people understood exactly what was required, they understood it was good for the town, the county and the state. ... Ultimately, it saves taxpayers money."

The energy saved by the towns conforming to the program requirements is equivalent to taking 40 homes off the grid, said sate Department of Energy Resources commissioner Mark Sylvia at a gathering of state and local officials Monday.

Five criteria

To be accepted into the program, the towns had to meet five criteria: adoption of a more stringent building code; the purchase of only fuel-efficient vehicles, excluding heavy duty vehicles; as-of-right siting for renewable/alternative energy generation, research and development, or manufacturing facilities; an expedited application and permitting process for as-of-right renewable/alternative energy facilities; and the establishment of a energy use baseline and plan to reduce energy use at town buildings by 20 percent within five years.

Six Berkshire towns

Great Barrington and Richmond are the fifth and sixth towns in the county to win the designation, following Becket, Lenox, Pittsfield and Williamstown.

Officials in Great Barrington and Richmond said they planned to use the grant money that came with the designation to make energy-efficiency improvements to town buildings through the replacement of old windows, doors, weather stripping and insulation.

Both towns also said they plan to research a solar grant program similar to the one operated in Lenox, which provides grants to local residents that install commercial and home solar panels.

There are now 103 Massachusetts cities and towns designated as green communities and 44 percent of state residents live in a green community, according to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secre tary Rick Sullivan.

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