Stephen Dotson

At the Brattleboro Police Department, Sustainability Coordinator Stephen Dotson stands in front of impounded bicycles that could be used for a program to get bikes in the hands of children and other community members. 

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BRATTLEBORO — At the start of an update on his efforts, Sustainability Coordinator Stephen Dotson had a spoiler alert: “We’re not sustainable, yet.”

“Sorry guys,” he said at the Select Board meeting Tuesday. “But we’re doing a lot to get there.”

Dotson joined town staff in February 2020, becoming the first person to hold the position.

“The sustainability coordinator has been a great addition to the Planning Department,” Planning Director Sue Fillion said.

Asked during an interview Thursday how he structures his days, Dotson said committee and commission meetings provide a “monthly rhythm.” Other group meetings he sits in on have a regular schedule as well.

Dotson said he receives requests every week and he evaluates how to respond.

“I get to be the guy who helps start things,” he said, not necessarily run them in perpetuity. “I get to be creative and help people.”

Dotson told the Select Board housing and workforce shortages, racial and economic inequities, the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis are the biggest issues in recent time. He has worked with the Energy Committee in creating an electric-powered bike lending library at Brooks Memorial Library in partnership with VBike, conducting outreach to transition buildings away from coal and oil heating systems, helping create solar siting guidelines in town, and getting the Select Board to align its energy goals with the state’s and make a partial investment in Cow Power, which is a program paying farmers to convert methane on their farms into electricity.

Dotson expects to approach the board soon with a proposal for the town’s recently created Fossil Fuel Free Facilities Fund.

“Things in development include in-pipe hydro power using the kinetic energy within our water system from the elevation drop that we have at our reservoir,” he said. “We have an anaerobic digestor at the wastewater treatment plant that is not currently being used but could be and we’re trying to figure out how it could be.”

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Replacing landscaping equipment with electric-powered items is another possibility he mentioned.

The town’s propane purchasing is now done through just one supplier, Dotson said. And as town vehicles come up for replacement, he will be helping to explore options.

An intern helped him consolidate the town’s energy data and greenhouse gas data will soon be compiled. His goal is to automate data and make more efficient use of it.

Through Green Mountain Power’s Resiliency Zone Program, batteries are being given to those living in areas where the power grid is more vulnerable to disruption.

“We’ve done some site visits and that seems to be advancing quite well,” Dotson said.

One effort he is helping to get off the ground involves getting used bicycles to children or other community members. He said the Brattleboro Police Department has many bikes in its possession that could be used for the effort.

Another project looks at the food needs of people, with several groups interviewing residents and farmers.

Brooks Memorial Library will have a tool lending library starting the spring. Dotson is credited with finding a grant from the Vermont Foodbank for the project, which seeks to improve food security.

A local currency system is being piloted at Brattleboro Food Co-op. Dotson said a similar system in Greenfield, Mass., saved businesses as much as $70,000 in credit card fees and there are ways to give cardholders special discounts.