GROTON -- An effort to have the town participate in a Green Communities law passed by the state Legislature received a friendly reception by the Board of Selectmen Monday night.
The question was brought up by Conservation Commission member Bruce Easom who stressed how Groton could become eligible for grant money if it adopted the Green Communities designation.
The law established a Green Communities Division which in turn has sought to recruit towns and cities into the program in order to promote "energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives."
At first, the Green Communities program was to have applied only to those towns that owned and operated their own electric company, as Groton does, but it was soon expanded to include any community that expressed interest in joining.
So far, 110 towns and cities, small and large, have signed on to the program and have since received combined grants of $20 million.
With no reason why Groton could not share in the largesse, Easom told selectmen that the town could stand to pick up a cool $135,000 simply to help in implementing its own plan.
Such a plan would need to include:
* Designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research and development, or manufacturing facilities.
* Adoption of an expedited application and permit process for energy facilities.
* Establishment of an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years.
* The purchase of only fuel-efficient vehicles for public use.
* Setting requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction by possibly adopting new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code which provides energy efficient alternatives to standard energy requirements in the state's building code.
Easom suggested possible adoption by the town of the Stretch Code but as pointed out by board chairman Peter Cunningham, such a change in the town's bylaws would need a vote from residents at town meeting as would adoption of the entire Green Communities initiative itself.
There was a downside to the Green Communities program as pointed out by Groton Electric Light Commissioner Kevin Lindemer who said the initiative was not likely to be a good thing for builders and developers, especially as the town would like to make itself more business friendly.
If the conditions of the initiative were to be adopted, Lindemer continued, they could make it more difficult and expensive to do business in Groton, forcing investors to look elsewhere.
And besides, Groton, with its various programs and purchase of open land, was already a green community.
Finally, Lindemer warned about accepting promises by the state to provide money for the initiative which they could "pull the rug out" from at any time similar to other empty promises such as the matching funds that were to have been received if the town adopted the Community Preservation Act.
Lindemer concluded by suggesting that the town conduct a strong cost/benefit study before adopting the Green Communities initiative.
"There are a number of things to look at to see if it's indeed a good thing for Groton," agreed board chairman Peter Cunningham.
Fellow board member Joshua Degen however, urged everyone to put the concerns of the world ahead of short term gain.
Cunningham chose to halt discussion there suggesting that a next step might be to form a committee to further explore the issues raised at the May 3 meeting.
Possible membership of such a committee, whose establishment selectmen left for a future meeting, might consist of representation from the Sustainability Committee, the Groton Electric Light Commission, and the Board of Selectmen among others.
The aim, said Cunningham, would be to have a recommendation if any, prepared for fall town meeting.