2017-10-13 / Front Page

Cape debates standing energy commitee

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – Over the last decade there has been two ad hoc groups tasked with looking into ways town residents and businesses can adopt alternative energy practices. Town Councilor Patty Grennon said it is time for a permanent group to be formed to look into the topic.

At a workshop session last week, Grennon proposed forming a standing renewable energy committee to pick up where the previous ad hoc committee, which the council formed in 2016 and disbanded earlier this year after sharing its alternative energy report, left off. One of the recommendations of the report was to have a permanent committee to deal with renewable and alternative energy issues. Other nearby communities, such as Portland, Scarborough and South Portland, have such a committee. The committee also recommended a number of solar array projects, including a system to heat Richards Community Pool and a larger system at Gull Crest Field off Spurwink Road.

“It formalizes the community interest in pursuing renewable energy options and sustainable energy goals,” Grennon said.

The group is proposed to be made up of five members on staggered three-year terms and meet every other month, or more often, if needed. The charge of the committee would be to “make recommendations to the town council aimed toward advancing the town’s long-term environmental needs; explore and make recommendations toward implementing sustainable energy options and examine energy cost savings in regard to return on investment, explore the opportunity for grants and make recommendations to the town council on applying for grants (and) promote and education the public on sustainable efforts and opportunities.”

Council chairman Jamie Garvin said the group, if formed, could be staffed by facilities director Perry Schwarz, who has had a history of bringing a sustainability and renewable energy focus to the facilities had has managed in other communities. He was awarded The Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for energy efficiency work and renovation of the Waits River Valley when he worked in Vermont.

“There probably be matters from this committee that will be potential issues that will be coming before this, or future councils,” Garvin said.

Councilor Penny Jordan said the committee could provide input to the 2019 comprehensive plan update and have “some level of accountability” for implementing the renewable energy goals and strategies included in the plan.

Jordan said Cape Elizabeth wouldn’t be alone in creating a committee focused on renewable and alternative energy as many communities are putting together a citizen committee to deal with policy issues dealing with alternative energy and reducing carbon footprints.

“We need to lead the way and I think this community is the way to do it,” she said.

“I think it’s a great idea. The previous two ad hoc committees contributed greatly to the conversation. I know a lot of people who are passionate about the issue,” Councilor Sara Lennon said of the need for the committee.

Councilor Kathy Ray, however, was not convinced the town needs a standing committee on renewable energy, but would support one if other councilors did.

“We had a committee and they issued a report. We should exhaust everything in the report that the council thinks we should do. I don’t think we need a standing committee,” she said.

She would recommend doing that at the very least, before a committee is created.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan was also not a fan of the standing committee approach.

“I am not sure a standing committee is the way to go,” she said. “I don’t see there is enough work.”

Councilors were expected to pass the idea along to the ordinance committee at their council meeting on Wednesday for “review and recommendation.”

If created, the renewable energy committee would have to be noted in the town’s boards and committee ordinance, which outlines the specific roles of each standing committee in town.

Other standing committees in town include the board of assessment review, community services committee, conservation committee, firing range committee, Fort Williams Park committee, personnel appeals board, planning board, recycling committee, Riverside Cemetery committee, Thomas Memorial Library Committee and board of zoning appeals.

Prior to the Oct. 11, the council was expected to convene in executive session with attorney Durward Parkinson to discuss some of the legal issues around the acceptance, discontinuance or extend the town’s right to paper streets at Surfside Avenue, Atlantic Place and Lighthouse Point Road.

How to handle the situation has divided both the community and the council.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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