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Hamilton-Wenham – The two towns are recipients of two separate grants, one to study the proposed Department of Public Facilities and Infrastructure and the other to participate in a pilot program for Clean Energy.
Wenham, Hamilton and the Regional School District have received $30,000 to study the concept and requirements for the proposed shared Department of Public Facilities and Infrastructure, first introduced as the “Virtual DPW.”
On Feb. 12, Wenham Interim Town Administrator Mark Andrews and Selectman Kenneth Whittaker attended the award ceremony at the State House for the Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) program.
The goal of the CIC program is to encourage and support regional collaborative efforts at the municipal level.
According to a press release distributed by Andrews, 27 award recipients will share approximately $2.25 million in this first round.
The two towns and the regional school district had applied for approximately $200,000 for planning and implementation of a regionalized public works department; however, the actual award focuses only on the planning phase.
Andrews said he is hopeful that the regional collaborative project will be ready for an award for implementation in a fall round of applications.
Andrews said 50 percent of the February award recipients received less than $50,000, and 60 percent of the recipients were receiving “second-round” funding.
In conversation with Frederick Kingsley, Chief of the Municipal Data Management Center of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Andrews said he learned that the Hamilton-Wenham collaborative public works program had never been done before.
Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo was less optimistic about the proposed collaboration for a Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
He expressed concern about the partial funding and said he and Hamilton Selectmen would need to know more about the state’s expectations before accepting the funding, not wanting to “over-commit” the town of Hamilton.
Lombardo said he is looking forward to upcoming meetings to learn more about options.
The planning phase will utilize consultant services from the Collins Center at the University of Massachusetts to look at the bylaws and financial structures of the two towns and the statutes for the regional school district to allow the proposed collaboration to be successful.
Consultants will also assist in setting up the organizational, legal and financial operations of the shared public works department, and identify implementation costs, to prepare for actual implementation.
One of the possible costs may be aligning the financial software packages for the three participating entities, each of which has separate software: Wenham uses VADAR, Hamilton uses MUNIS and the regional school district uses INFINITE.
At the Feb. 19 Selectmen’s meeting, Andrews announced that Hamilton and Wenham would likely be taking part in a pilot program for Clean Energy.
According to a press release Andrews distributed on Feb. 21, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Green Communities Division announced that six municipal governments and planning authorities will participate in a $500,000 pilot program.
The goal of the program is “to help local communities identify energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean energy strategies to meet local energy needs.”
One of the participating planning authorities is the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which includes Hamilton, Wenham, Salem and Swampscott.
Hamilton and Wenham are “Green Communities.”
According to the release, the program is designed to “help communities assess and evaluate clean energy investments ranging from high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment and insulation to wind turbines and solar electricity systems.”
When Hamilton and Wenham applied for “Green Community” designation, both towns indicated an interest in exploring municipal alternative energy opportunities.
Participation in this grant provides some technical assistance to look into designs and applications.
Both Andrews and Lombardo said they were excited by the opportunities to work with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
One possible shared municipal project might involve the community swimming pool at Patton Park.
A comment at one of the public input forums held this month suggested that the Recreation Department expand the pool’s season, possibly using alternative energy to heat the pool water or a seasonal enclosure.
Currently, the Patton Park Pool project has received funding from the Hamilton Community Preservation Committee to collect design and facility information from the community and technical experts, so the opportunity through Metropolitan Area Planning Council is very timely.
Hamilton had identified wind energy and anaerobic digesting as key areas of alternative energy possible in that town.
Lombardo said he has been working with experts on technical specifications and a Request for Proposals for an anaerobic digester facility located on the old Hamilton dump.
He hopes the RFP will be available in about two months.
An anaerobic digester breaks down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, reducing the emission of landfill gases into the air.
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