At its Oct. 13 meeting, the Town Board pushed the town of Gardiner one step closer in attaining its goal of becoming a bronze certified community in the eyes of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The five members unanimously approved a motion to have its attorneys look over a contract with Joule Power, the final step before officially beginning a partnership that would bring clean and renewable air to the town residents.
“There are some good things in there that makes sense and puts my mind at ease,” said Franco Carucci, board and Climate Smart Gardiner member who had done much of the facilitating on behalf of the town to select the renewable energy company as Gardiner’s Community Choice Aggregation administrator. “Everything looks pretty good ... I think it’s ready to go ahead and send to the attorney and have them pick it apart, let us know what kind of information we have to go chase after.”
The Town Board selected Joule Power as its administrator at its Sept. 9 meeting over Good Energy. Joule would offer 100 percent renewable energy as the default option for energy customers, but the residents of Gardiner would have the option to forgo the environmentally-conservative source in favor of the slightly cheaper “brown option,” which would be similar to what Central Hudson offers.
After the CCA implementation, Gardiner would reduce its energy consumption, making it eligible for bronze level certification recognized by the state. Certifications are awarded to Climate Smart Communities that have undergone rigorous review processes and made concrete changes to mitigate climate change, and would increase the town’s chances for winning Department of Environmental Conservation grants for state funding programs.
Carucci said the 10-page contract, or the Memorandum of Understanding, outlines the responsibilities of both Joule and of the Town Board, the latter of which would be maintaining clear communication between the energy company and the community, or customers, by posting notifications and updates on its website and social media channels.
“It says we’ve formally selected Joule as the administrator, and their responsibilities are going to be to go out to bid energy companies and bring back the best deal based on the requirements that we put for them. It’s really just setting up the relationship,” he said.
After the municipality’s lawyers at Young/Sommer review the document, Joule will be authorized to put out bids on behalf of the town from which the board will then select from. That process, Carucci said, as well as determining the terms and conditions for the new relationship will be the biggest component of the journey toward clean energy.
In other board business, the members confirmed the first of several meetings to discuss and workshop the 2021 tentative budget. At its workshop meeting a week earlier, Town Supervisor Mary Beth Majestic said she received budget requests from the department heads, which asked that there be no increase in salaries, and only one department, which she did not name, put in for a substantial increase. Majestic said she made a few changes ahead of the board workshop sessions to create a starting off point.
“In the tentative budget there was no money allocated to offset taxes from our fund balance ... I took $50,000 from both general and highway to offset the taxes,” she said. “I was made aware from our bookkeeper that the New York State retirement system has increased the amount that we’ll need to give next year so that will have to be adjusted on our expenses. I added a $10,000 line for a town planner and that took the overall increase of the budget from about 10 percent to about 6 percent.”
What she said the board should really focus on is the ways in which the town can create revenue in the upcoming year, especially in the face of nation-wide deficit.
Also during the meeting, the board unanimously voted to appoint Glenn Gidaly as the Planning Board and Zoning Board Clerk. Deputy Supervisor Laura Walls did not participate in the vote because she is married to Gidaly.