Cape Elizabeth panel to research use of alternative energy

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A committee will explore ways alternative energy sources can be used by the town.

The Town Council on Jan. 4 approved a charge for the committee, which was one of the councilors’ goals for this year. The purpose of the five-member committee will be researching potential alternative energy for municipal and school buildings and vehicles.

Councilor Jamie Garvin said the mission may not be specific enough, and suggested defining “alternative energy,” but Town Manager Mike McGovern, who drafted the proposal, said the language should be intentionally vague.

“The intent was to keep it open and broad,” McGovern said. “The intent was not to tie their hands at the beginning of the process as to what they might look at.”

Councilors made $10,000 available to the committee, which will come from the town’s unassigned fund balance. The committee will access the funds through McGovern and, with his approval, the money can be used for technical reviews, report writing, legal reviews and other needs that may arise.

Committee members will be expected to develop and research ideas and then propose them to the council. The committee will also be expected to provide councilors with cost estimates, future energy cost projections, and the risks associated with the proposal. 

The panel has a sunset date of Dec. 31, when councilors will decide whether it should continue.

According to Councilor Patty Grennon, the council will have to accept the proposals for review, which will include workshop discussions, before they can be officially approved. Grennon said it will be a “fluid, ongoing, organic process.”

The idea to create an alternative energy committee was first brought to the council by a resident at a roundtable discussion in September, and Grennon then brought it to the council as a goal for 2016.

The next step is to select committee members. Grennon said the application will be available on the town website, and the Town Council appointments committee will interview prospective members. 

Grennon said the council is looking for members who have expertise and experience in alternative energy, but will not be accepting anyone who has a financial interest in the committee’s work. She said the Town Council should approve the appointment committee’s recommendations in February or March.

The town’s facilities manager, Greg Marles, will also serve on the committee as a non-voting ex-officio member. The committee is expected to spend at least 28 hours per member working on proposals over the course of the year.

“I think it’s a local and global issue, and anything Cape Elizabeth can do to move towards sustainable and alternative energy options for the town is a win-win,” Grennon said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.