DARTMOUTH – Dartmouth has been honored with an international award in recognition of its continuing efforts to build a greener and more sustainable community.
The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) presented the town with its Community Sustainability Program Excellence Award at its recent annual awards ceremony in Charlotte, N.C.
Town Administrator David Cressman accepted the award on Dartmouth’s behalf with more than 3,000 municipal leaders on hand at the annual event. Dartmouth beat out Gladstone, Mo. and New Smyrna Beach, Fla. in the 10,000 to 49,999 population category.
“While Dartmouth has been recognized as the Commonwealth’s leader in producing alternative solar energy, plus a leader within the Commonwealth in terms of Dartmouth’s recycling/solid waste program, and its focus on encouraging sustainable businesses, this award acknowledges Dartmouth’s national and international leadership in its population class for its sustainable agenda – which focuses on alternative energy, conservation of energy, support for sustainable businesses, and following sustainable financial practices,” Cressman said.
“This award is the capstone of my career in local government, as there are only a few such awards granted each year,” Cressman added.
He suggested a real town-wide effort made the award possible for Dartmouth. The Select Board and various staff members working on sustainability initiatives, such as Town Budget and Finance Director Greg Barnes, Public Works Director David Hickox, and town Director of Development & Grants Deborah Wender, are all to be commended for their work on the various initiatives, he indicated.
Cressman also credited the UMass Dartmouth staff and students which assisted in the GRI report, and DCTV’s staff for their efforts on behalf of the town.
YEARS OF EFFORTS
In 2009, the town was poised to pursue the construction of two 90-meter wind turbines as a municipal power source. After lots of discussion, the plan was scrapped in favor of a public investment in another green energy field – solar power production.
The leasing of the old capped landfill for a solar energy farm was the first initiative, and solar power production started in February 2013. By May of last year, Dartmouth had 113 installed solar systems with 9.3 MW of capacity, making the town the leading solar-producing municipality in Massachusetts.
A number of other private solar energy farms have sprouted up throughout the Dartmouth countryside in recent years, and more are in the planning and production stages.
On the residential front, the town has partnered with the SouthCoast Energy Challenge on a multi-year campaign to promote energy conservation and encourage home solar system installations.
Another sustainability initiative in 2007 was the Board of Public Works decision to shift to a “pay-as-you-throw” program for the community’s solid waste. Town meeting support for the PAYT program saw the town’s 10,000-plus tons of solid waste decline to slightly more than 4,000 tons for 10,165 participant households, cutting landfill disposal costs and expanding its useful life span by over 10 years.
The Department of Public Works followed with a SMART solid waste management plan in 2012, providing wheeled containers for recyclables that has increased recycling by 13 percent.
In 2013, faced with a growing number of non-functioning streetlights, town officials organized a $630,000 campaign to install 1,600 energy efficient LED streetlights throughout the community, resulting in operational energy savings of 66 percent. The savings will go to a maintenance fund to pay for future light replacements.
OTHER MUNICIPAL INITIATIVES
Over the past four years, the town has also replaced outdated heating and air conditioning systems at Southworth Library, town hall, and the senior center, and made numerous upgrades to public works pumps and motors to cut energy costs.
The installation of water-saving toilets in town hall has reduced water usage in that municipal building by 80 percent.
As far back as 2007-2008, municipal leaders and the town management team were identifying operational efficiencies to cut costs, and revamping financial policies to be more sustainable as well. The town administrator is credited with seeking “entrepreneurial” opportunities to increase revenues and cut costs, with a focus on solar power production.
In addition to creating $13 million in operational savings projected over 20 years, the support for solar power initiatives has also resulted in new property tax growth and increased building permit revenues. The efforts recently helped the town’s bond rating (A in 2009) being increased from AA to AAA in 2014.