Deerfield seeks support for green municipal campus from state climate chief

  • Deerfield Selectboard members Carolyn Shores Ness, Trevor McDaniel and Tim Hilchey, standing at right, talk with Massachusetts Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer in the Deerfield Town Offices on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The vision plan for the Deerfield municipal campus in the center of South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • From left, Deerfield Selectboard member Tim Hilchey, Massachusetts Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer, Deerfield Planning Board Chair Denise Mason and M.A. Swedlund of the Deerfield Energy Committee talk about the future of the town’s municipal campus that would involve a senior center in the church and town offices in the old senior center pictured at right behind them. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/2/2023 5:55:21 PM

DEERFIELD — With the town continuing to make progress on its municipal campus plans, officials welcomed the state’s first-ever climate chief to Town Hall on Monday to discuss potential state and federal funding sources that could support the project’s environmentally friendly infrastructure.

Over the last two years, Deerfield officials been developing a plan to create a municipal campus focused around the town common, Tilton Library, Town Hall, 1888 Building (the former South County Senior Center) and the South Deerfield Congregational Church. The goal is to increase the accessibility and connectivity of South Deerfield for residents, with climate resiliency and sustainability also playing a part.

A key aspect of the project is connecting several of these municipal buildings with a single geothermal heating system, which town officials hope could be both sustainable and save money on energy bills.

“We are looking at ourselves as a potential pilot project for rural communities looking to meet the goals the state has set for climate change,” said Selectboard member Tim Hilchey. “If geothermal works here … then maybe we can adapt this in coming years to the schools.”

As part of its outreach around the project, the town has invited both state and federal officials, who have all lauded the idea. Joining that group Monday was Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer, who was briefed by the Selectboard and Planning Board Chairwoman Denise Mason on the town’s plans, which need funding.

“We are organized, we know what we need, we just need help accessing money,” Mason said.

Hoffer praised Deerfield’s planning and added she’s been hearing about similar financial and climate-related challenges from other towns around the state.

“That’s really sort of model thinking,” Hoffer said of the town’s plans, citing potential benefits from land use, transportation, green energy and positive social impacts. “This is a wonderful vision.”

Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness specifically requested guidance on pursuing a geothermal project, noting approximately 69% of the town budget goes toward school-related expenses each year and it’s often difficult to start any new construction projects.

“We think that this kind of thing is the way to go for the future,” Shores Ness said.

Hoffer explained there are several grant programs that are available for a feasibility study on a geothermal system, and there are several people and groups she could connect the town with to help facilitate discussions. Other resources, she said, include the ever-growing number of tax credits for climate-resilient and sustainable infrastructure.

On the federal level, Hoffer said she would look to connect town officials with people who may be able to help Deerfield capture federal money.

“Little, rural towns, you can get a lot of bang for your buck,” commented Selectboard member Trevor McDaniel. “It’s about trying to find ways to grab that federal money.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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