Aiming to take energy efficiency further

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BRATTLEBORO — A local group wants the municipality to be even more mindful of energy conservation.

"We just switched to renewable energy," said Dakota DesRochers, coordinator of the Brattleboro Common Sense conservation advisory, referring to how municipal buildings get their power. "There's a really robust history of being conscious of our energy use in town and implementing these kinds of practices. But this just takes it further, which is great."

Her group is looking for public support for a "mandatory energy conservation advisory" that would be voted on by Town Meeting members at annual Representative Town Meeting in March. It would include four articles.

"We are facing a climate emergency," a press release issued Friday says. "Localities and individuals must act fast to reduce energy usage. In the past year, carbon emissions in the United States have surged 2.5 percent and the reason for this surge in emissions appears to have been higher energy use to heat and cool homes. This increase could have been easily avoided with simple energy conservation practices as we are proposing."

If 5 percent of the Brattleboro population, or about 500 residents, sign a petition for the advisory to be included on the meeting warning, an article to be voted on will ask if the Select Board should be advised not to commission any more studies on fossil fuel consumption, carbon footprints, insulation efficiency and heating or air conditioning systems until the town implements "common sense practices" to cut down on fuel consumption in town buildings. That would include lowering the thermostat setting during the winter months to "a significant degree;" wearing long johns, sweaters and other warm clothing; mounting and sealing doors, windows and storm windows; using electric fans instead of air conditioning and wearing cool clothing in summer months and taking other measures determined by the town's energy coordinator.

Another article would have Town Meeting members deciding whether to tell the Select Board "that it is of utmost importance to replace the energy coordinator as soon as possible."

"I think that's an important part of this advisory because that position has gone unfilled for maybe a little less than a year and we know that the previous energy coordinator saved a lot of money for the town," DesRochers said.

The last two articles would see Town Meeting members weigh in on whether to advise the Select Board to have the energy coordinator implement the "common sense" practices and adopt an ordinance requiring businesses and residents in town to take similar measures.

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DesRochers was getting signatures Sunday.

"We are actually out knocking on doors right now," she said. "We don't have a lot of time left so we're getting out there to talk to folks about it."

The petition needs to be in by Jan. 17 to have the articles included at Representative Town Meeting.

"Everybody who I've talked to about it has been very supportive," said DesRochers, who had just been at the Brattleboro Food Co-op downtown. "One person was saying they used to work in the town and they think the town buildings are kind of wasteful."

DesRochers said her group already collected 30 signatures in one day.

"It's going really well so far," she said.

Brattleboro Common Sense successfully petitioned for voters to look at whether to allow 16- and 17-year-old residents to vote in local elections and serve as Town Meeting members or on local school boards. If that passes, the Vermont Legislature will have the final say on whether it can happen via a town charter change.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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