Some Green Dalton Committee members are still upset with the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Kenneth Walto over what they call inaction and missed opportunities for more grant funding. The town’s selectmen met Jan. 9 and ultimately produced what Board of Selectmen Chairman John Bartels called a “Green Communities Grant Project Update.”
The document summarizes expenditures and planned spending that utilizes a $142,725 grant, which was awarded in 2014 by the state’s Green Communities initiative. “This is a kind of synopsis, a short description of each,” Bartels said.
The summary document details six total projects, which, upon completion, will exhaust the entire grant: the purchasing of energy efficient vehicles and the installation of a charging station; a Green Communities required energy audit; upgrades to town hall lighting; adding insulation in the senior center’s attic; the instillation of LED lights in the library; and adding insulation to the town hall attic.
Only the first two projects – the electric vehicles with a charging station and the energy audit – have been completed. This cost $64,183. The four other projects either have estimated completion dates – with June being the latest – or none at all, which is one reason for the Green Committee’s anger.
The Green Dalton Committee had previously expressed their dissatisfaction on Dec. 12, 2016 with public comment and two written letters directed at the Board of Selectmen.
At the time, committee members were upset that stalled projects lead to a leftover balance, which meant they could not reapply for the annual grant.
Committee member Cheryl Rose described it succinctly: “We don’t get money until we spend money.”
Edward Holub, who attended the Jan. 9 meeting alongside two other Green Dalton Committee members, was not happy with the progress made between December and January, and later criticized the new update document. “I was disappointed by the agenda item number 13 that reads ‘Green Communities Grant Project Report,’” Holub wrote in an email. “That is an inaccurate description of what was presented at the meeting. It was in fact a spin document. It was Ken Walto’s attempt to explain why less than half of the green money has been spent in two years.”
Walto had, on Dec. 12, said that spending the grant money proved difficult given all the processes involved – bidding and approval from trustees, like the project in the library,” he said, takes time. Walto stood by his statement Jan. 9.
“There’s a lot of detail going on behind this thing,” Walto said. But Holub responded to this, too, saying that the Green Community had not added to the report and had never even seen it up until that point. “Clearly this report had been prepared well in advance of the meeting with no input from anyone other than Ken and John Bartels,” Holub wrote. “This was unfair and did not present an accurate picture of why the project is taking so long.”
Bartels, though, said he planned giving the report weeks before the Green Committee’s initial complaints back in December. Eventually, the complaints from the Green Dalton Committee returned to the fact that they have missed out on returning, annual grants because scheduled projects have left a remaining balance.
“We have to figure out what the hell we have to do to get this going,” Green Dalton Committee Chairman David Wasielewski said. “We’ve missed two deadlines and are looking at the third.”
Holub added to Wasielewski’s sentiments. “There are towns that have gotten this grant three, four times,” Holub said, pointing to a packet he had that detailed towns with multiple grant years. “Maybe we can learn from those towns.” Walto, though, said that getting such a competitive grant is never guaranteed and that spending first year’s grant money is not streamlined. Walto cited an email from Jim Barry, the Green Communities western coordinator, saying that there is no “normal” amount of time to spend the funds.