Hadley will officially join Green Communities program at Tuesday ceremony

  • Hopkins Academy is one of the town-owned buildings likely to receive upgrades now that Hadley has joined the Green Communities Program. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, August 14, 2023

HADLEY — Energy use and greenhouse gases emitted from town and school buildings will be cut through various improvements and initiatives that will be covered by grants from the state’s Green Communities Program.

On Tuesday, Hadley officially became the second-to-last Hampshire County community to be designated a Green Community, making the town eligible to seek money from the Department of Energy Resources.

At Southwick Town Hall, Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan, Select Board Chairwoman Amy Parsons and board member Jane Nevinsmith, and Climate Change Committee Chairman Jack Czajkowski, were at an event along with representatives from East Longmeadow, Washington and Southwick. Earning the designation, which nearly 300 cities and towns have already done, leaves South Hadley as the lone community in the county not part of the program.

Czajkowski said being a Green Community town is a great opportunity for Hadley, as money from it will be used to lower energy use in current municipal buildings.

“We are looking at options to be funded by the $139,000 grant from the state,” Czajkowski said. “For now, we are looking at partial funding for a cooling system for the Town Hall and some weatherization projects for the high school.”

The schools might also be able to seek money for other equipment, such as heat pumps. Previously, the town was blocked from accessing this money.

Brennan was notified of the designation in writing on July 10. That letter states Hadley would be awarded a grant of $139,250, based on a formula that includes the $125,000 base grant, plus an amount adjusted for population and income.

“This designation is quite an achievement and reflects the hard work and tireless efforts your community has exhibited in meeting the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program’s five criteria,” wrote Joanne Bissetta, director of Green Communities Division. “Meeting these criteria is proof of the town’s position as an energy leader in Massachusetts, poised to reduce its energy costs, improve the local environment, and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with funding through the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program.”

To receive the grant award, the town will be required to submit a project application proposing how the initial funds will be spent. The deadline for this designation grant applications is 90 days from the July 10 letter. Hadley officials will work with regional coordinator Chris Mason to identify potential energy projects and vendors and utility companies who can handle the work.

Hadley officials began pursuing the Green Community designation in August 2020 at the request of the Climate Change Committee. In March, the Select Board adopted an energy reduction plan cutting energy use by 20% over five years, a thorough evaluation of all town buildings, including pump stations, as the final step in the process.

This followed actions that included some measures that were brought and passed by Town Meeting. Those included adopting an overlay district for as-of-right siting for renewable energy facilities, such as large-scale solar arrays, offering expedited application and permitting for renewable energy, reviewing and adopting a fuel-efficient town vehicles policy and adjusting the stretch code to meet state goals that mandate energy-efficiency requirements for many new buildings, including homes, before they are constructed.

At a Climate Change Committee meeting last month, Kathy Nelson, who vice chairs the committee, said the state wants cities and towns to be part of the program.

“It’s a great program because they’re literally paying us to do these building retrofits that will make town and school buildings way more energy efficient,” Nelson said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.