City officials agree on $4.1M anaerobic digester

  • Greenfield Town Hall FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/27/2019 10:09:31 PM

GREENFIELD — The city will be able to pursue an anaerobic digester now that it has agreed to budget $4.1 million for the project that will be led by the Department of Public Works.

The project has flown under the radar this year after being widely criticized last year, under then DPW director, Don Ouellette.

At the City Council’s budget meeting last week, where it approved a $51.3 million spending plan and agreed to funnel more money toward the schools, the anaerobic digester was one of the few moments of unanimity during the 5½-hour meeting.

“This is exactly the kind of thing we should be prioritizing and putting forward in Greenfield,” Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis said.

Allis, who is running for mayor, said the biggest differences this time was that the city knew how much it would cost, how much it could save and how much Greenfield itself would have to pay for the anaerobic digester that is projected to have regional partners.

Last year, Ouellette was found delivering inexact numbers when pitching the project to city officials and taxpayers, as first reported by the Recorder. In response, he said: “Was it perfectly accurate? No, but it was close ... It’s more important to show you the trend.”

Ouellette later in the year left town for other work.

This time the anaerobic digester project that could pay for itself in saved money and then become a money-maker found strong support under the leadership of DPW Director Marlo Warner.

“This is kind of a no brainer,” At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass said.

The anaerobic digester will allow for the city to not have to ship its sludge across New England, a practice that has become more expensive over the years as disposal sites have closed.

In this model, the city plans to have neighboring towns that are interested in working with them for a regional model. City officials hope this will lead to grant money opportunities.

“This will help the other communities and help us,” Precinct 1 Councilor Verne Sund said. “They’ll bring the sludge to us.”

Precinct 2 Councilor Mark Berson said this could be the start of a good model for more regional partnerships — and could pave the way for other projects in the future.

“I hope sludge will become the glue of cooperation,” Berson said.

Fire station

The Greenfield Fire Department will have to wait to see its future home.

The question over whether the new public library will pass in the November election continues to loom large.

Councilors decided to hold off funding a half-million study to begin engineering a fire station at Beacon and Riddell streets until November.

If the library is approved, the current fire station — which city officials acknowledge needs to be replaced regardless of the library’s fate — would have to move because of project blueprints. Under this scenario, it is expected to include the necessary financing to tear down the fire station as needed, while preserving elements that are wanted.

Wiley-Russell Dam

The council decided to hold off on a decision to invest more money to refurbish the dam.

Mass adamantly opposed financing for the dam.

“The idea that the Wiley-Russell Dam will bring tourism is a farce,” Mass said.

He called to “tear down” this dam.

Precinct 7 Councilor Otis Wheeler, who represents the area of the dam, said the reasons for refurbishing it was for historical and aesthetic value.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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