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City receive $491,000 climate grant from EPA

Date: 3/9/2010

March 10, 2010.

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The city of Springfield recently received a big boost to its energy conservation efforts in the form of close to a half-million dollars, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Mayor Domenic Sarno, Congressman Richard Neal, EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding, School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram and City Facilities Department Director Pat Sullivan announced the city was recently awarded a $491,067 EPA Climate Showcase Community Grant during a press conference at DeBerry Elementary School on Monday.

The monies were part of a $10 million EPA competitive grant program designed to help cities and towns draw up and implement climate change initiatives.

Out of a pool of 450 applicants, Springfield was one of 25 communities nationwide, and one of only two in New England, to receive a grant.

In his remarks, Sarno mentioned that the city has been "very aggressive about going after grants," and praised the hard work of Neal, the city's grant-writing team of Joseph Forest, Grant Director Cheryn Wojcik and former team member Kelley Tic, as well as the initial proposal from Pat Sullivan, as crucial in securing this award.

According to Forest, the monies will be used to hire four control technicians who will complete preventative maintanence and perform energy audits in school and municipal buildings.

"This grant will cover [the technician's] salaries and benefits for two years," Forest said. "The goal is to [then] sustain their salaries from the energy and cost savings to the city."

Spalding praised the work Springfield has already done in making conservation improvements to many schools and municipal buildings, and for its willingness to combine $1.5 million in existing funds from an energy Efficiency Block Grant to bring the entire investment in this project to close to $2 million.

"The city will be working in 105 municipal buildings to reduce energy use," Spalding said, adding that the new high-efficiency boiler and Web-based monitoring system recently installed in the DeBerry school -- which helped to both reduce energy costs and improve indoor air quality at the school -- is an example of the work that will be done.

Over the two years of the grant, he said the city is projected to reduce it's carbon emissions by approximately 8 percent, or the equivalent of taking 600 to 700 cars off the road.

"The city was selected for this grant because it is a leader that other cities can follow," Spalding said.

Sullivan praised Sarno for "having the foresight" to send him to Washington four years ago, where he both met with Neal about conservation efforts and attended the EPA's Tools for Schools conference, from which he derived the conservation concepts the city has employed to date and will expand with this grant.

Linda Darveau, a scientist from the EPA's Region One office in Boston, told Reminder Publications that it was the thoroughness of the city's grant application, coupled with the work it was already doing to improve energy efficiency in its buildings, that helped push Springfield's application to the top.

"The city is committed from the top down to doing this type of work," she said. "We felt the money would be well-spent."