The selectboard and broadband committee discussed the MBI /WiredWest broadband project at Wednesday night's selectboard meeting. Clockwise, left to right: selectman Dan Keller, selectboard chairperson Christine Heard, selectman Jeoffrey Pooser, town coordinator Nancy Aldrich, and broadband committee members Ray DiDonato, Ben Schwartz and Robbie Heller. In the background is Wendell's newly created town flag, which was designed by town residents Donna Horn and Pam Richardson. Aldrich s

Energy, broadband, top Wendell selectmen's agenda

WENDELL — The selectboard met at the town office building Wednesday night with visits from the energy committee and the broadband committee at the top of the agenda. 

The first topic of conversation was how to proceed with improving the heating system in the town hall. Nan Riebschlaeger and Laurie DiDonato represented the energy committee, which has agreed to use Green Community grant funds to upgrade the system. The question at hand is whether to use those funds to replace the existing duct work in the building, or to go with a brand new air source heat pump system. Heat pumps are highly efficient electric units which transfer heat rather than create it. They use condensers and compressors to absorb heat from one location and release it at another.

There are pluses and minuses to both plans. If the duct work is replaced, at an estimated cost of $24,000, the oil furnace would run at about an 80 percent efficiency rate, and be suitable for use at virtually any temperature the winter will have to offer.

If the town goes with the air sourced heat pump proposal, at an estimated cost of $19,000, it would run at an estimated 200-300 percent efficiency, but would begin to lose efficiency at an external temperature of five degrees, and would not work at all at temperatures of 13 degrees below zero, and a back-up system would be required. The built-in back-up for the heat pumps is radiant electric heat, which is the least efficient way to heat.

Riebschlaeger said that green funding could be used for either of the projects but not both, because the duct work would only be serving as a back-up system if the heat pumps are installed, and the energy savings would not be sufficient to allow for the application for any new green energy grants.

Another idea, presented by selectboard member Jeoffrey Pooser, is to see if it is feasible to create a type of hybrid system that would have a ducted heat pump tied into the existing furnace. This idea was met with positive reaction from all in attendance, and Ribschlaeger said that if it would meet the required 15-20 percent reduction in energy usage, there is enough green grant money on hand to cover the cost of both projects, and that the energy committee would then be eligible for future grants.

It was agreed that the energy committee will check with the heat pump contractor to see if this is something that can be achieved, and that the results of those conversations will be discussed at the next energy committee meeting this coming Tuesday. The selectboard agreed to hold a special session directly following the Tuesday energy committee meeting which begins at 7:30 p.m. The selectboard set its special session for 8 p.m.

Broadband Committee 

Next up the board heard from the broadband committee regarding the MBI/WiredWest broadband project. There are still more questions than answers as far as how the project will proceed, and WiredWest will be holding an informational meeting Friday from noon to 2 p.m. at the old courthouse at 99 Main St., Northampton, regarding a draft of an agreement that WiredWest is asking all participating communities to sign. WiredWest is urging selectboard members, broadband committee members and finance committee members to attend the session.

It was agreed that town counsel would need to go over this draft, and that as Wendell’s counsel Kopelman and Paige also represents other communities involved in the project, that K & P can bundle its analysis for all the involved towns, thus cutting costs for all of the towns it represents.

While WiredWest has a goal of member towns signing off on this agreement by January, board member Dan Keller said that this is still a very confusing process, and that the January date is a “tight timeline.” Pooser concurred, calling the timeline “optimistic.”

Robbie Heller, representing the broadband committee, said that he does not think that the timeline is set in stone, and that he believes that the other communities involved in the project still have a lot of questions as well, and expects WiredWest to accommodate all said communities until all questions are answered to their satisfaction.

Free Cash Approved

The town’s free cash for this fiscal year has been approved at an amount of $284,422. Town Coordinator Nancy Aldrich and the board were pleased, as the amount is up from last year and the approval came in a more timely manner than it has in years past.

Resignation Withdrawn

Animal Control Officer Maggie Houghton has withdrawn her resignation from the position after discussions with the board. Chairperson Christine Heard is in the process of writing an article for the town newsletter explaining to pet owners what the responsibilities and duties of the animal control officer include, and what owners need to do to be in compliance with all ordinances and bylaws.

ConCom Appointment

Due to a vacancy created on the conservation commission created when former member Becky Finn moved out of town, Robin Heubel was appointed and sworn in to fill the vacancy. Heubel is also a member of the finance committee.

Town Flag Completed

The Wendell town flag, a product of much hard work and debate, now hangs in the selectboard meeting room. The process of selecting a design and physically creating the flag was a long one, but the results were worth the wait. Local artists Donna Horn and Pam Richardson collaborated on the design, and Aldrich was the seamstress who physically created the finished product which has drawn rave reviews. The center design is circular and shows a rendition of people in different colors and shades holding hands, surrounding a tree with roots that resembles a peace sign in the foreground with the rising sun behind it. A colorful rainbow-like background extends to the flag’s edges. A replica of the flag will be created, and will soon fly in the Hall of Flags at the Statehouse in Boston. The original intent was for the original flag to fly in Boston, but it has since been agreed upon that it belongs in Wendell. Its permanent placement in town has yet to be decided.

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