Gill seeks grant for Public Safety Complex weatherization

  • Gill officials intend to apply for a Green Communities grant that would help fund weatherization of the Public Safety Complex at 196 Main Road, the last remaining fossil fuel-dependent facility that the town owns. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2022 4:07:01 PM
Modified: 9/1/2022 4:06:49 PM

GILL — The town intends to apply for a Green Communities grant that would help fund weatherization of the Public Safety Complex, the last remaining fossil fuel-dependent facility that the town owns, according to Energy Commission Chair Vicky Jenkins.

The commission brought two companies’ weatherization project proposals to the Selectboard for consideration during Monday’s meeting — one from Energy Source out of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and the other from Energy Resources out of Thomaston, Connecticut. The Selectboard requested the Energy Commission further engage with Energy Source, who proposed installing insulating foam along the building’s joints for a cost of roughly $42,000.

Jenkins said undertaking a weatherization project at the complex at 196 Main Road is particularly challenging, given its structure.

“It is one of the most complicated buildings because it is three different departments,” she explained. “Each have different spaces.”

The building’s roof is well-insulated following a recent renovation, Jenkins said, but the rest of the building is not.

“It leaks a lot of energy and we’re trying to get it off fossil fuels, so we’ve been doing some work,” she said.

Jenkins recapped that Ben Weil, an extension assistant professor with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Department of Environmental Conservation who specializes in energy-efficient buildings, tested the Public Safety Complex and provided a series of recommendations, including one to install foam board around the entire building. Jenkins said while his recommendations were “great,” the cost would be too high.

“Ben is the person who, if money was not an issue, we would follow his way,” Jenkins commented.

She then contacted four contractors and received two responses. Energy Source’s proposal was geared toward “providing a good, robust foam insulation … at the point where the roof and the walls meet” at a cost of $42,000, Energy Commission member Claire Chang described. Plus, the proposal suggests the optional addition of air-source heat pumps in each of the facility’s three sections, which would cost roughly $108,000.

Meanwhile, Energy Resources suggested a full foam installation around the exterior of the building.

“Their weatherization clearly costs more up front, but they’re claiming the utility incentive is $49,000, which brings the net cost to $38,000,” Chang said of Energy Resources’ plan. “So that’s very comparable, but the weatherization plan with Energy Resources is to actually do what Ben Weil had suggested, which is foam board insulation around the entire exterior.”

While Energy Resources estimated a comparable net cost, its proposal was less detailed than what Energy Source provided, the Energy Commission members explained. Jenkins also recalled having “had a little trouble” working with Energy Resources during past projects.

“On the one hand, I think it would be nice to do the whole gold standard insulation,” Chang said. “I actually think that would be better, and certainly in the long run. I’m just not sure that this is the right company.”

Town Administrator Ray Purington said Selectboard member Randy Crochier, who was absent from Monday’s meeting, had expressed reservations regarding the town’s financial investment in the project, should Gill be expected to match whatever Green Communities grant amount that could be awarded. According to Purington, Crochier also noted the town’s transition away from fossil fuels has not allowed Gill much financial relief, having even resulted in escalated energy costs historically.

“At this point, I think he’s leery of putting town-matching funds toward the project,” Purington said.

Purington continued by expressing concern over the effectiveness of partial foam installations. In addition to partial insulation potentially functioning less effectively than a full installation, such a concept might prove less compelling to those charged with awarding grants, he said.

“(Energy Source’s) roof/wall/joint area kind of feels like a difference between doing it and doing it right,” Purington commented. “They’re doing something, which is better than nothing, but by going to the grant well or spending town money on partial (installation), I think it makes it that much harder to get to doing it right. That makes me a little nervous.”

Chang noted that Gill could always choose to add more foam insulation later, should the town find it beneficial.

“It wouldn’t keep you from completing the work in the future,” she said.

The Green Communities grant application deadline is Oct. 1, the Selectboard’s Monday agenda notes.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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