With energy grants, Franklin County towns look to upgrade buildings but maintain style

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Buckland Town Hall RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Deerfield Elementary School. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/23/2018 7:28:22 PM

Six towns in Franklin County and the North Quabbin are getting money for projects related to improving energy efficiency and transitioning to renewable sources of energy.

The grants, ranging from about $25,000 to an upper limit of $250,000, are part of the state Department of Energy Resources’s Green Communities program, “an important partnership with cities and towns to help them find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson.

To be eligible for the program, a town must meet criteria and provide the Department of Energy Resources with a five-year plan for reducing its municipal energy use by 20 percent.

Upon entering the program, each town is awarded a grant, the amount of which is based on population and the scope of the improvement projects outlined by the town in its application. The grants awarded this year were “competitive grants” that a town can only apply for once it has completed any projects for which it was already awarded grant money. Eighty of the 120 Green Communities were awarded grants this year.

Northfield and Warwick

Northfield and Warwick are pooling large portions of their grant money to fund improvements to Pioneer Valley Regional School, which serves those two towns and Leyden and Bernardston. In total, the improvements will be worth $177,042 — $110,961 of which comes from Northfield’s grant, and $66,081 of which comes from Warwick’s grant. In total, Northfield was awarded $244,929, and Warwick was awarded $225,807.

“One thing that’s so important to note about this effort is, it’s our understanding that we are the first regional school district to do work on our school (using Green Community grant money),” said Northfield Energy Committee Co-Chairwoman Susan O’Connor. “To have this cross-town collaboration is very important.”

The improvements will be to the school’s insulation and heating systems. O’Connor said this work should reduce the school’s use of heating oil by 13,000 gallons a year and save the district $80,000 a year.

Northfield has been a Green Community since 2011, and Warwick since 2014. This is the first year either town has applied for a competitive grant.

Each town is spending the rest of its grant on similar improvements to its own elementary school. Northfield is also making relatively minor improvements to its Dickinson Memorial Library.


​​​​​​​Athol is receiving $116,762. Athol has been a Green Community since 2010, and has received several competitive grants already, said Director of Planning and Development Eric Smith. Athol’s improvement projects this year involve upgrading the Department of Public Works building’s lighting to LED and improvements to the heating systems of the town hall and police station.

“We’re excited that they awarded us for these projects,” Smith said. “We’re trying to go through our energy audits and find what projects we haven’t done yet.”


​​​​​​​Buckland received $27,707 for window inserts and administrative costs in its town hall, police station and other municipal buildings. Buckland’s town administrator and Energy Committee members were unavailable for comment.


Deerfield received $116,082, of which about $100,000 will go toward upgrading its elementary school’s insulation, heating and lighting, said Town Administrator Wendy Foxmyn.

“We’re really thrilled at how it turned out,” Foxmyn said, referring to the sum Deerfield was awarded. She credited it to Energy Committee Chairman David Gilbert-Keith.


Gill received $68,465, most of which will be spent on the town’s library, said Administrative Assistant Ray Purington.

About 20 years ago, Purington said, a drop-down ceiling was installed in the library to reduce heating costs. With the grant money, the library’s insulation and heating system will be improved, making it possible to remove the drop-down ceiling, “re-exposing the aesthetics of the original building,” Purington said.

Some of the money will also be spent on updating the library’s lighting system to be energy-efficient, yet “something that would look like the kind of lighting you would find in a 1920s library,” Purington said.

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