BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard has decided not to go forward with an energy audit of the town-owned buildings at this time.
At Tuesday night's Selectboard meeting the board was asked to commit a portion of the current year's potential surplus toward an energy audit.
But the board rejected that request, deciding instead to take a longer-term view and possibly establish a fund toward a more comprehensive audit that would be done in the next few years.
At the Dec. 3 Selectboard meeting board member David Schoales asked interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland to see if $3,400 from the projected surplus from this year could be used for the energy audit.
Moreland said that while there may be savings in the current budget it was too early in the fiscal year to allocate funds that may not be there at the end of the year.
Moreland said the town would save about $30,000 on the early resignation of former Town Manager Barbara Sondag, another $60,000 on liability insurance restructuring, $200,000 from changes in how the town is paying for the police-fire renovation and further savings from street light efficiency upgrades.
At the same time, Moreland said, projected tax revenue is down, the town has had to pay about $92,000 to reconstruct Elm Street from storm damage, and another $55,000 is needed to help rebuild the police and fire emergency radio systems.
"At this juncture, at the first week in January it is very early to make a clear prediction of where the budget will end up," Moreland said. "That is usually done in June, not in December or January."
Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said that while he supported energy conservation, and thought an energy audit would be useful, he thought $3,400 was not enough to adequately address the town's energy issues.
Gartenstein said he wants to find the money to invest in a complete energy audit of all of the town-owned facilities.
The audit would include the municipal center, the Gibson-Aiken Center, Brooks Memorial Library, Nelson Withington Skating Rink along with the public works garage and waste water treatment plant buildings.
"I question whether the $3,400 is a realistic amount to audit these facilities," Gartenstein said. "These buildings are complex. It is not in the town's best interests given where we are."
Gartenstein said he wants the board to begin to talk about finding a more substantial amount of money to properly fund a full audit of the town's buildings, and probable upgrades that would arise from the audit.
He said he wants to find up to $50,000 to start that fund.
"I am totally in favor of making a real commitment to do additional energy efficiency work in the coming year," Gartenstein said. "I want to make sure when we commission an audit it is done in a thoughtful, organized manner."
Gartenstein said the town might be able to use some of the money in Agricultural Land Fund, which has not been used much in recent years, or possibly in the unassigned fund balance or the possible surplus from the general fund.
The board received support from Town Energy Coordinator Paul Cameron and Energy Committee Chairman Les Humphreys, who agreed that it made sense to do a more wide-spread audit of all of the town-owned buildings.
Humphreys said it would probably cost more than $3,400 to do the audit.
"I still feel like the energy savings are there," Humphreys said. "It would be right to put aside some money and figure out the right way to do this."
Schoales said it would still make sense to invest some money now to start the process, even though it would probably take much more money to do a complete energy audit on all of the town's buildings, but the board voted to put off the $3,400 audit for now and look in to creating a more substantial fund for a future energy audit.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.