north attleboro town hall building

North Attleboro Town Hall

NORTH ATTLEBORO — Town officials are considering joining 270 other cities and towns in Massachusetts and becoming a “Green Community.”

The designation means a city or town has met certain state requirements for energy efficiency, which makes them eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants.

Plainville, for instance, received $144,000 in 2017 after it became a Green Community. The money was earmarked for new lights and windows in its schools that reduced energy consumption.

A group of North Attleboro officials, including Economic Development Director Lyle Pirnie and planning board Chairwoman Marie Clarner, have been meeting with state environmental and regional planning representatives to draft a proposal.

It was presented to town council Wednesday and referred to the bylaw subcommittee. The council will hold a hearing on the matter Oct. 16.

Pirnie said becoming a Green Community is a good move for North Attleboro because it will make the town more energy efficient and eligible for up to $175,000 the first year and $250,000 after that.

After the first year, he said, the state grants become more competitive and Clarner said some towns are more aggressive than others in seeking more funding.

She said some towns have already received $1 million.

The money can be used in a variety of purposes to make town buildings, including schools, more energy efficient and therefore easier on the environment.

Furnaces, windows, lights, insulation and other items can be purchased and installed with the grant money.

To become eligible, the town would have to meet five criteria.

The item that has gotten the most attention in other communities is a stricter building code, sometimes called a “stretch code,” that requires new buildings to be more energy efficient.

In some communities, like Attleboro, developers have opposed the code, saying it will increase the cost of construction.

The code was originally defeated in Attleboro under former Mayor Kevin Dumas, but then passed in July under Mayor Paul Heroux and with the endorsement of Dumas.

Pirnie said the stricter code only adds an estimated $1,300 to the cost of the average new house and Clarner said that cost is paid back within a year from lower energy costs.

Another requirement to become eligible is that the town will have to do an energy audit of its properties and then come up with a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent over five years, Pirnie said.

Clarner said North Attleboro would be able to include energy-saving moves it has already made in the last two years, so the town should easily be able to meet the 20 percent goal.

Still another requirement is that the town would have to buy more energy-efficient vehicles.

North Attleboro already complies with another requirement that it have an area zoned for alternative energy, such as solar panels. Pirnie said the industrial park already allows that use.

The council’s bylaw subcommittee, headed by Councilor JoAnn Cathcart, will now review the proposal and make corrections and changes.

Council Vice President Justin Pare said the proposal sounds like a good one.

“It’s been adopted by about 80 percent of towns in the Commonwealth. I think because of that it won’t put us at any competitive disadvantage for developers....,” he said.

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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