Ashfield officials consider using $105K in ARPA funds for Town Hall heating upgrade

Ashfield Town Hall may get a heating upgrade.

Ashfield Town Hall may get a heating upgrade. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 09-15-2023 4:09 PM

ASHFIELD — Town Hall may get a heating upgrade.

Mary Quigley, speaking as the town’s building steward and supported by the Energy Committee, came before the Finance Committee and Selectboard this week to propose the town allocate about $105,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to install electric heat pumps and insulation at Town Hall.

She noted the town could take advantage of a grant through the Green Communities program that would cover up to 75% of the project cost.

“This is a push toward getting us off fossil fuels,” Quigley said at the meeting.

The total project would cost about $420,000, leaving the town to pick up a bill of $105,000. The town has not committed to following through with the plan, but because the grant applications are only available for a short period of time, Town Administrator Paul McLatchy III will apply for the grant. After more research and discussion, Selectboard members will decide if they would like to follow through with the project.

“We’re going to apply for the grant. It doesn’t commit us to the project, but we absolutely cannot do the project without it. If we don’t apply for it, it’s not going to happen,” McLatchy wrote in an email.

During discussion about the project on Monday, parties involved were unsure of the potential savings that could be associated with the energy-efficient upgrade. The town budgets about $5,500 to $6,000 a year for gas heating costs.

“We need to make this transition,” said Selectboard member Tom Carter. “It is just a question of how we get there.”

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Finance Committee and Selectboard members think the town may add a solar field to offset the electric bills of the municipal buildings — a project they said would pair well with the switch to electric heat pumps. They are unsure the timeline for this project.

Town Hall may also be used more, should the energy-efficiency upgrades occur, because the switch would come with a cooling system for use in the summer. Quigley said the cooling element is a benefit of the transition, but not the main purpose of the project and may ultimately not be used to save on energy costs.

Remaining ARPA money

This $105,000 in question would come out of the town’s remaining ARPA balance of $341,823. The town has already committed about $171,400 from the total funds (but has only spent $112,251 to date).

The town needs to have all its ARPA funds committed to projects by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by the following year.

One of the biggest projects the town has spent ARPA money on was to repair the dam at Ashfield Lake. The total cost of the project was about $260,000, with $100,000 of ARPA funding used.

“Using ARPA money for the dam was a no-brainer,” Carter said.

When asked what other projects the town is considering using its ARPA money for, McLatchy wrote, “Improvements to town buildings, capital replacements (such as vehicles), grant matches, etc. The board does not want to use these funds for recurring expenses and would like to use them to help obtain state or federal grants to make them stretch even further.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at blevavi@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.