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Towns receive grants for solar arrays

By Lisa Loomis

Waitsfield and Warren both received $80,000 grants from the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund for solar arrays.

Voters in Warren and Waitsfield approved bond votes for $462,829 and $306,609, respectively, on May 6. With the grants, Warren's solar array will cost $382,829 and Waitsfield's will cost $235,000.

The Warren solar array will be installed at the back of Brooks Field at Warren Elementary School. The 522-panel array will produce 162kW of net-metered power which will offset about 88 percent of the town and school load.

It will be installed by Waitsfield-based Aegis Renewable Energy and will occupy a total area of 45 by 500 feet split between two locations: a strip of land between the road on the far side of Brooks Field and the forest behind it and another strip of land at the edge of the field within the town-owned Eaton Parcel.

The Waitsfield array will be installed at the town garage (off Tremblay Road) and will feature 330 fixed panels. The solar array is a 102kW array. It was downsized from the original proposal of 120kW.

The array will make the new town offices net zero and also provide electricity for the fire station, the Wait House, the school, the town garage, the library and, potentially, the street lights on Bridge Street.

At Waitsfield Select Board's regular meeting this week, the board approved moving forward with borrowing the money for the solar array as well as borrowing $400,000 toward the cost of building new town offices.

Waitsfield voters authorized the select board to borrow up to $650,000 towards the cost of building new town offices at the Farm Stand site at the north end of Waitsfield Village last July and again last October, thanks to a petition for reconsideration of the first vote.

Waitsfield has a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant for the town office and also received an anonymous donation of $100,000 earmarked for purchasing the Farm Stand parcel.

The town will borrow $400,000 this summer and borrow the balance of what is needed to complete the project next year. After voters approved the bond, a Town Office Design Committee was appointed. Members of the committee reduced the original footprint of the building and have a plan that involves finishing the second floor during construction rather than leaving it open and unfinished. Now the second floor will be finished space with the main meeting room upstairs. This is accessed by stairs and an elevator.

The total estimated cost of the new design is $1,346,162. In October, when voters approved building new town offices, the estimated cost of the building was $1,203,787, but that was prior to the committee recommending and the select board approving completion of the second floor.

Select board member and design committee chair Chris Pierson said that by shrinking the footprint of the building the town will be able to complete the second floor and still keep the project within the voter-approved cap. Completing the second floor during construction rather than after the fact was less expensive and a "no-brainer," he said.

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