Medford Mayor Mike McGlynn knew he wanted to be involved with the state’s Green Communities program from the time it was announced.
“I knew it was going to get a lot of [state] support, and I felt it would eventually become the law,” said McGlynn, who noted that new building codes are increasingly aligned with the energy-saving “stretch code” municipalities adopt as part of the Green Communities process, and “in the meantime, we picked up [nearly] $700,000. It was a great opportunity for us.”
Medford was named one of the original 35 Green Communities in 2010. There are now 123 Green Communities in the state, and last week Medford was one of 43 municipalities to receive a grant in the latest round of program funding.
This time, it’s for $142,978, which will be spent on an energy management system for the senior center, weatherization at City Hall; improved exterior lighting at Medford High School, LoConte Ice Rink, and Hormel Stadium; and a project administrator to oversee the grant and its projects.
Medford was one of the first cities or towns to achieve “green community” status, a designation reached by demonstrating a commitment to energy conservation. It has expanded for good reason. Over the past four years, the city received three grants totaling $663,000, not counting financial incentives from energy companies, yielding annual energy bill savings of $87,000 a year.
“All of these items are focused on saving money, conserving energy, and reducing our carbon footprint,” he said, adding that they also improve city aesthetics.
In the latest round of grants, the state’s Department of Energy Resources awarded $7.9 million to communities that have met energy conservation standards to receive a Green Community designation, and have successfully invested previously awarded Green Communities grants.
Twelve recipients came from north of Boston: Beverly, Chelmsford, Gloucester, Hamilton, Medford, Tewksbury, Topsfield, Tyngsborough, Wenham, Winchester, Winthrop, and Woburn.
As grant recipients have found, the program often addresses needs that might otherwise be deferred by towns and cities operating on tight budgets and faced with other operational priorities.
“When you start looking at the designation process and what they offer, there are grant dollars toward projects to improve your buildings and [also] reduce energy, which in turn reduces operational cost,” said Henry “Chip” Goudreau, chairman of the Topsfield Green Community Renewable Energy Committee, who wrote the grant request that brought the town $48,936 for a high-efficiency steam boiler for the public library. “It’s truly a real financial return on investment consideration here.”
Likewise, Chelmsford received $128,732 to replace two 20-ton rooftop HVAC units at Chelmsford High School.
“Those units are about 20 years old,” Town Manager Dan Cohen said. “Not only will it save us the cost to replace them, but we’ll save about $9,500 in operating costs.”
Communities are also benefiting from incentive funding from utilities. In the fast-moving world of clean energy and energy savings, many have found it to be a good way to stretch a buck.
Tewksbury received its first Green Communities grant in July 2011, Town Manager Richard Montuori recalled, but received so many rebates and other incentives while spending $207,000 that it did not apply for grants in the next round, because it hadn’t spent all of its funding from the previous one.
This year, Tewskbury received $161,574 for a wide range of projects. Included is exterior lighting at the Town Hall/Town Hall Annex, Fire Station, Department of Public Works building, Senior Center, and four schools: Dewing and North Street elementary and Ryan and Wynn middle schools. Additional funding will be used for weatherization at the DPW building and outdoor air reset (controlling boiler water temperature) at the Dewing School.
In Beverly, a $249,990 grant will be used for a three-phase installation of an energy management system at the McKeown Elementary School.
“This grant will help us reduce energy usage and costs at the McKeown School for both electricity and natural gas,” Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill said via e-mail. The city has been a Green Community since late 2011, and has previously used the funding for energy upgrades at the Beverly Public Library, and the Centerville, Ayers Ryal Side, and North Beverly elementary schools. “These projects are helping Beverly to conserve resources and cut energy costs. We are becoming a greener community day by day.”
Three communities — Gloucester, Winchester, and Woburn — received maximum grants of $250,000. Gloucester will use its grant to upgrade the energy system from oil to gas at the O’Maley Middle School, while Winchester and Woburn will use theirs for LED streetlights around the municipalities.
According to a press release, Gloucester, also one of the first Green Communities, will create $120,000 in savings while reducing its carbon footprint by 16 percent.
Hamilton ($225,695) and Wenham ($248,029), which frequently regionalize on projects, coordinated their needs with those of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District, said Wenham Town Administrator Mark Andrews. As a result, Hamilton’s funding will go toward LED streetlights, exterior lighting for Town Hall and the Public Safety Building, and conversion of exterior lighting to LED lights at the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School and Middle School. The Wenham grant will go to a cooler condensing unit at the high school, kitchen hood controls at the middle school, exterior lighting at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library, the Iron Rail Building, and Wenham Town Hall, a pump upgrade for the Water Department, and LED streetlights in various locations.
Other grants included:
■ $115,489 for lighting controls at the Tyngsborough public library, high school, and elementary schools, and for attic insulation at town offices and the town library;
■ $235,000 for a wide variety of projects in Winthrop, including weatherization, and hot water pumps and energy management systems at the Cummings School and at the Winthrop Middle School.