Friday, March 12, 2010
Area towns seek savings through joint planning
Regional planners met in Carlisle on March 4 to pool information on municipal services, area transportation projects and green building initiatives. The Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination (MAGIC) represents a group of 13 towns, including Carlisle and Concord.
Inventory proposed to aid regionalizing services
The first item for discussion was the idea of creating a database taking inventory of the municipal services available in each town, in order to foster sharing services to save money. Examples would include school districts, health services, boards of health, building inspectors, councils on aging and affordable housing consultants. The intent is to apply for a District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) grant from the Commonwealth to fund this project.
Shared bicycle-bus path?
Next came an introduction to two transportation projects. The first is a shared bicycle and bus rapid-transit path along the Massachusetts Central Railroad right-of-way, extending from Waltham west to Clinton. MAGIC intends to explore community interest, research examples of such shared paths, examine right-of-way issues and make recommendations for further study.
The second project aims to increase the use of existing transit services in the MAGIC region. The committee will investigate the collection of data about available services, propose additional transit connections that would make the existing system more useful and study the implications of expanding the transit services on air quality. The committee voted unanimously to approve these two projects.
Towns struggle to qualify for Green Communities grants
Joanne Bissetta, the Northeast Region Green Community coordinator, presented an update on the Green Communities Program. This program was signed into law by Governor Patrick in July 2008, and provides $10 million annually in grants to communities for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. In order to qualify for a grant, a community must meet five criteria, one of which is being designated a Stretch community. Stretch is the proposed stringent building code for constructing energy-efficient homes and office buildings. Unfortunately, no town in Massachusetts meets the five criteria.
Bissetta felt that some towns will meet the criteria by mid-May, when applications for designation as a Green Community are due. Free technical assistance is available to towns that are working to be designated; over 100 towns are in line for energy audits so they can understand where they fall short in meeting the criteria. (For more information, a Google search of “Massachusetts green community grant criteria” will yield a page describing the criteria.
Finally, James Freas gave an overview of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG). This is a federal program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to assist towns with energy efficiency and conservation strategies. The goals are to alleviate fossil fuel emissions, reduce total energy use and improve energy efficiency in building, transportation, and other sectors. Freas reported that the latest federal budget proposal does not fund this program.
MAGIC is part of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Greater Boston’s regional planning agency, whose web site (www.mapc.org) states: “Our mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration in Metropolitan Boston through public policy research and advocacy, technical assistance, mapping and analysis, and local planning.” ∆
© 2010 The