Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kittery gets greener with signing of mayor's agreement


Thursday, February 7, 2008

KITTERY, Maine ­ Steps toward a greener town should move forward now that the Town Council has endorsed a nationwide initiative.

Recently six out of seven town councilors voted to endorse the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement ­ a nonbinding agreement to look at ways communities can improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Councilor Frank Dennett voted against the endorsement because of specific language he didn't like.

The agreement has been signed by 785 towns and cities from every state in the country, including 15 towns in Maine. Another 15 Maine communities are in the process of signing the agreement, and 155 towns and cities in New Hampshire have signed or are in the process of signing a similar agreement.

Members of Cool Kittery ­ a grassroots environmental organization ­ gave a presentation to councilors Monday about the agreement and what signing it would mean for Kittery.

Sarah Brown, a member of Cool Kittery, said the main goal of the approximately 30-member group is to promote saving money and the environment at the same time. Brown said they would like to continue seeing the town practicing responsible energy use, protecting the environment and maximizing tax dollars.

"The main thing is we'd like to have a town-approach to energy efficiency and conservation," Brown said, adding that while the town is already taking bold steps, the group would like to suggest more and see them accomplished faster.

Energy efficiency plans already in place include development of a 50-kilowatt wind turbine that will generate electricity for the town, an investment in Town Hall that will further insulate the building and add other heating improvements and additional energy efficiency plans for the town's two fire stations.

By signing the agreement, the town will be responsible for establishing an Energy Efficiency Committee. That committee, which Brown said would consist of Cool Kittery members, members of the town's ad hoc Energy Committee and "whoever wants to participate," would complete an energy inventory of all town-owned facilities and departments.

After completing the energy inventory, the committee would implement appropriate changes.

In addition, said Brown, the committee would pursue some of the many state grants offered to municipalities to help lower carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and develop an education program to teach Kittery students about both topics.

"It's the inventory that is really the cornerstone to having a communitywide approach," Brown said.

She cited a similar energy inventory done by professionals in Portsmouth, proposing, Kittery accomplish the same task working with specialists, but not expend funds in the process.

Saco City Councilor Eric Cote spoke about energy efficiency developments taking place in his city.

For three years, the city has had an Energy Committee looking into ways to make improvements. The city has spent $750,000 in the effort.

"It's something that is going to cost you," Cote told Kittery councilors.

However, Saco is also saving an estimated $100,000 a year because of its energy-efficiency investments, according to an outline detailing improvements made in the city.

Improvements include switching all traffic lights to energy efficient LED lights, replacement of 16 of the city's 22 departmental refrigerators with Energy Star products and installing occupancy sensors for hallway lighting.

In addition, the city built a wind turbine next to the wastewater treatment plant in 2007 and next week will install another turbine on Main Street next to Saco's train station.

Cost for the wastewater treatment plant turbine was $76,000 with a projected five-year payback, saving the city $15,200 a year in energy costs.

The city also has plans to build a new transportation center with a geothermal heating system. In addition, Cote said the city bought a hybrid car for the staff, Saco's Code Enforcement Officer uses an electric car and the city is currently looking into an electric truck.

Kittery Fire Chief David O'Brien talked about some of the energy efficiency plans being looked into for the town's fire stations.

O'Brien said for the Kittery fire station on Gorges Road was built with a southernly exposure to increase the amount of sun it receives.

The fire department is discussing powering the Gorges Road station with solar power, which could save 50 percent of the heating costs for that building, according to O'Brien.

The fire chief also said he's "watching closely" the installation of a geothermal heating system being put in at a residential home on Kittery Point and what he can do with that at the town's fire stations.

"I want our fire stations to lead the way" in environmental efficiencies, said O'Brien on Monday. "I look forward to working with this committee."

At the Town Council's next two meetings, the membership of the Energy Efficiency Committee will be discussed.

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