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Holyoke starts new Energy Committee

Date: 9/29/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Holyoke was founded because its access to energy -- and a clean source at that -- and now city officials are preparing the Paper City for the newest era of energy production and conservation.

Mayor Michael Sullivan announced on Sept. 14 the establishment of the city's Energy Committee. The committee is charged with reducing the city's level of energy consumption and becoming more "green." Superintendent of Public Works William Fuqua, Director of Holyoke Gas and Electric James Lavelle, Fire Chief David Lafond, Melinda Lane of the Police Department, Maintenance Administrator of Holyoke Schools Whitney Anderson and Director of Planning and Development Kathleen Anderson were named to the committee.

The committee's first task is to prepare the city to meet the state's requirements to be certified as a "Green Community" and Anderson told Reminder Publications work on that project has already begun. She explained the benefits of such a designation is then the city would qualify for portions of a $10 million grant program and receive higher priority in some state grant programs.

Anderson said the following criteria must be prepared for implementation and the City Council must then approve to pursue the designation:

• Holyoke must provide for as-of-right siting -- that complies with existing zoning regulation and requires no special permits -- of renewable or alternative energy generating facilities, research and development facilities or manufacturing centers;

• adopt an expedited permitting process that shall not exceed one year;

• establish an energy baseline for municipal buildings, vehicles and street and traffic lighting and develop a plan to reduce the baseline by 20 percent in five years;

• purchase only fuel efficient vehicles and require any new residence over 3,000 square feet and all new commercial and industrial construction to adhere to the Stretch Code, which uses greater energy efficiency and alternative energy techniques.

Anderson said the city has already put in place the streamlined permitting process and has started on energy audits of the buildings. Her department has also put together a wind turbine ordinance that would be coming for approval by the City Council. That ordinance would allow wind turbines to be erected for electrical generation in certain parts of the city for both residential and commercial applications.

To assist the city in meeting these requirements, the city has been approved for a Green Communities technical Assistance Grant that allows the Energy Committee to receive help from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC).

Catherine Ratte of the PVPC said 10 communities in Hampden and Hampshire counties, including Springfield and South Hadley, are working on the requirements for the "Green Community" designation.