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The Commons
Voices / Letters from readers

Heating-oil petition dismisses good already done

The writer serves as a member of the Brattleboro Selectboard.

Originally published in The Commons issue #416 (Wednesday, July 12, 2017).

I’m usually a fan of petitions. They’re an easy way to make your voice heard, especially these days when, on a national level, it sometimes feels like our leaders don’t share our values.

But lately a local social-media petition has been trying my patience a bit.

The petition urging our town to “End Brattleboro’s Municipal Use of Heating Oil” points out, fairly, that our town emits large amounts of carbon dioxide from burning fuel oil and that we should be working to reduce this activity as much as possible.

I fully agree with this sentiment.

My problem with the petition? It seems to be either ignorant or dismissive of the very good work that has already been done around this issue. This is surprising, since the author has been present at almost every Selectboard meeting since I have been a member.

The petition claims the town has been “slow to act,” but of the nine energy-improvement upgrades recommended in 2016 (last year, mind you), four have been fully funded, and two have been partially funded.

So, in one year’s time, a lot of good work has been done toward these energy upgrades. A third of the total project costs (over half of a million dollars) are now funded, and work will begin this year. Town staff and citizen volunteers have put many hours into these efforts and finding creative funding sources.

Additionally, just this May 16, the current Selectboard voted to change the Transportation Center heating system to a pellet boiler, per the Energy Committee’s recommendations of 2016.

Surely, these moves are not indicative of a town dragging its feet on financially smart energy upgrades.

Also: the state has approved a solar array at our former landfill. It will be one of the largest in Vermont, and the town is the largest participant. This project will not only move Brattleboro forward as a major investor in green energy but also reap an approximate $70,000 to $80,000 per year in reduced cost of electricity and many thousands in additional property-tax revenue to reduce our town taxpayers’ burdens.

We must also be respectful of both the heavy burden placed on our taxpayers and of the democratic process, which works well, but sometimes more slowly than some people desire.

I’m proud to live in a town where activists with good ideas can feel heard by their town government; I would just like to feel that when good efforts are already being made, those same people are paying attention.

Tim Wessel


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