David Wood, Director of the Concord Municipal Light Plant (the "CMLP"), spoke at a Dec. 1 First Friday program, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle at the Fowler Library in West Concord. Wood's presentation followed an announcement by the CMLP that residents and businesses in Concord could see their electricity rates increase 22% over a four-year period starting in early 2018.
Wood acknowledged that the Light Plant "has to be very careful with ratepayer money." He provided thoughtful highlights of the reasons for the increases, which are to help the Town reduce its greenhouse gas levels and to promote more environmental-friendly energy use. The Light Plant and the Concord Light Board have created a Strategic Plan that highlights fuel switching and electric vehicles, rate design, purchase power agreements and renewable energy, energy storage and smart thermostats, and energy efficiency. The day before the League program, the Light Plant added distributed solar (adding solar panels to your home or business) to the list of initiatives in the Strategic Plan that the Light Plant will pursue.
Wood and his staff members fielded questions about the rate increase, emphasizing that they were seeking a balanced approach involving sustainability, RECs (renewable energy credits), smart meters and smarter thermostats, and while encouraging the conversion from natural gas to electric heat. Discussion followed about how the Light Plant and Light Board have interpreted the Town's energy goals under the 2017 Warrant Article 51.
Most of the people in attendance had read the Concord Journal commentary by Jill Appel, former member of the Light Board, Finance Committee, and Energy Future Task Force. Her piece appeared on November 30th, the day before the League's gathering; she stated, "No rate increases should be approved until we have a five-year financial plan that clearly shows all initiatives, their price tags and ratepayer impact." That concern, coupled with questions from attendees about institutional challenges, incentives to encourage residential heat pumps, the need for public charging stations for electric cars, improved community outreach, and concerns about the burden of increases on the community in general, led to a lively and productive exchange of ideas.
In response to League and community concerns about the rate hike, the Light Plant and Light Board have delayed the January 1, 2018 implementation of the new electricity rate increases (announced in September) to at least February or March 2018 to allow time for more input from residents and businesses. The Light Board will also have a public hearing once the new rate design is complete. After the program Diane Proctor, President of the League said, "I am so glad they are listening to the citizens of Concord and that we are having this public dialogue before any rate increases are implemented."
Additional information on the Light Plant's Strategic Plan and the Light Board's agendas and minutes are available at: http://www.concordma.gov/1106/Municipal-Light-Board.
Sherry framed the discussion by outlining the three key components of the Town's library program + the Town and its Library Committee, the Concord Public Library Corporation, and the Friends of the Library, all of which are collaborating on the planning. She reviewed the history of the development of the Library's acquisition of 151 Main Street, which will be linked to the existing library. Sherry also gave an overview of the ongoing needs in the Library for an expanded children's section, teen zone, gathering space, special collections, historic room and storage.
Next, Jeff explained the preliminary plans for the new extension and renovation of 151 Main Street. He highlighted the expansion plans and how they will meet the Library's ongoing needs. Jeff noted that the estimated cost of the proposed building project is $8.5 million, with another $1.5 million endowment needed to address administrative and maintenance costs. Fundraising efforts towards the $10 million goal are already underway and have achieved a good beginning towards the goal. If fundraising goes well, construction will begin in 2018, with completion in 2020.
Jeff and Sherry addressed League questions about parking and coordination with the Emerson Umbrella redevelopment and the Concord Museum. They also responded to inquiries about funding sources and fundraising efforts, security for the Library treasures, handicap parking, planned outdoor space for children, room nomenclature, basement storage, maintenance schedules, and redevelopment with an eye towards sustaining the character of the Library and the Town.
On Friday, October 6th, 2017, the League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle held its opening First Friday at Fowler. The guests were Elise Woodward and Gary Kleiman, Co-Chairs of Concord's Long Range Planning Committee. Ms. Woodward presented a thoughtful perspective on the history of the committee, including the previous Long Range Plan, and the progress of the present committee. Explaining how they had selected Civic Moxie as their consultant team, their use of the APA (American Planning Association) guidelines, and the latest SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats) analysis, she then outlined their timeline, a process that will conclude in June 2018.
Mr. Kleiman used an imaginative metaphor to explain the committee's "holistic approach" to planning. Using the example of small neighborhood parks, he explained how pocket parks could be used for children's play, community connection, power storage, and preservation of open space.
The thirty citizens who attended the event were full of questions for the committee. Asking about focus groups, "authentic" participation of citizens (one of the committee's stated goals), attention to open spaces, concerns for an maintaining an affordable town, and the principles of sustainability, the presenters urged people to go to their website and participate in their October 20-21st public plans, where they will present the results of the committee's survey.