Board set to fill out new town Energy Committee

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BENNINGTON — The Select Board is expected to interview applicants for seats on the new town Energy Committee next month but submission letters still are being accepted.

Town Manager Stuart Hurd reported this week that nine area residents answered a call for letters of interest in serving on a committee to consider energy efficiency and related issues and possible initiatives.

"Those are all the applicants to date," Hurd said, referring to the list he has compiled. "Applications are still being accepted."

Those submitting letters include David Traver Adolphus, of NeighborWorks; Bill Christian, a Shaftsbury resident who has volunteered on local weatherization projects and with existing energy committees; Zak Hale, of Hale Resources; Michael Kuser, of RTO Insider; Bruce Lierman, transportation interest group commissioner with the Bennington Regional Planning Commission; Deanna Oakes, a student and town resident; Sam Restino, self-employed electrician; William Scully, a member of the Select Board (who won't participate in the interview process), and Wendy Sharkey, an employee of Bennington Free Library.

Select Board Chairman Donald Campbell said Thursday that the interviews will likely be scheduled in August.

Approved in April

The Select Board voted in April to re-establish the defunct town Energy Committee and to seek seven to 10 people from the area. The plan was to issue appointments for one year.

During that period, the committee will help define its role as a standing town committee and explore possible energy-savings initiatives or policies to recommend to the Select Board.

The committee is the first recommendation in the recently adopted town Energy Plan. Its establishment also was urged over the winter by members of Climate Action of Bennington, the town Planning Commission, and the BCRC.

Advocates also provided general goals for such a committee, based in part on committees that have formed in Dorset, Manchester and other Vermont towns.

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During the April session, the Select Board decided to ask the committee to focus at first on exploring energy-related issues, reporting on a regular basis to the board and making recommendations.

Madison Kremer, an AmeriCorps VISTA employee with the BCRC, said at the meeting that Dorset and Manchester have formed energy committees and she had been discussing committees with Arlington and Shaftsbury officials.

Possible initiatives

Among the suggestions for the role of an Energy Committee listed by advocates were increasing public awareness of the challenges of unsustainable energy use and global warming; developing a network of like-minded individuals and groups within the community; assisting local governments, community entities and individuals to recognize opportunities to make a difference on energy issues; and developing a broad information and action network with regional, statewide and wider resource organizations, other communities and other information sources.

Campbell raised some concerns about the exact role the Energy Committee will fill in town government, initially proposing that the first year be devoted to defining that role.

Board member Jeannie Jenkins said she wouldn't want the group to spend an entire year defining how it will function, and the board eventually agreed to ask for a report on those details within the first three months.

Hurd raised concerns that the new committee could add to the burden of town offices staff unless it were essentially "self-sufficient."

By that he primarily meant being responsible for adhering to the state's opening meeting law, taking and posting meeting minutes and reporting on a regular basis to the Select Board.

Board members agreed those duties should normally fall on members of the volunteer board.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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