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Go green or go broke

The Bruce II Sports Centre has recently been awarded 1.4 million to become more energy efficient and another 500K to fix its pool area, but going green may save both the environment and taxpayers as the town looks to new technology to reduce its footprint and expenses. – © FILE PHOTO

By ROSALYN ROY

PORT AUX BASQUES – The Bruce II Sports Centre has been awarded 1.4 million dollars from the Climate Change Challenge Fund (CCCF) for energy efficiency and other upgrades. The announcement was made during January’s council meeting by Town Manager Leon MacIsaac.

The town worked with six other municipalities in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Municipalities to access this climate change funding for the sports centre. An additional $140,000 was awarded for upgrades to the Port aux Basques central fire station.

The town has also received a further $500,000 for upgrades to the sports facility’s Dectron unit, which is designed to control humidity in a pool area. That means just under two million dollars worth of investment in total for the building, which is now 25 years old and in need of upgrades.

“Through these programs, town staff can receive training regarding climate science, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, climate change adaption, and participate in collaborative workshops,” said MacIsaac, reading aloud from the announcement letter.

The are four milestone targets to hit and town has already completed Phase 1 and 2 of the plan, and Phase 3 is underway. Phase 4 deals with future action plans, explained MacIsaac.

“Through the different project categories we’ve identified the Bruce II Sports Centre for fuel switching and energy and efficiency, the central fire hall for fuel switching and energy and efficiency, the Grand Bay West garage depot roof refit, which we also recently received funding for from the province to the tune of about $150,000. We also looked at a residential energy and efficiency program, which council discussed,” said MacIsaac. “There’s currently a rat program. There are other coming initiatives.”

MacIsaac’s lengthy list of upcoming initiatives ran the gamut from car pooling to cost saving initiatives for the new waste water treatment plant.

“We’ll also take a look at coastal erosion and restoration throughout the projects,” noted MacIsaac.

For Phase 4 future plans, the town hopes to look at energy and efficiency upgrades to the Grand Bay fire hall and the old fish plant, particularly if the ongoing study determines Port aux Basques is a suitable location for a cold and live seafood storage facility.

Water conservation and composting programs were highlighted as possible future plans for residents, particularly when it comes to heating and insulation programs. Coun. Melvin Keeping asked if water metering was one of the conservation measures being discussed, and MacIsaac did concede that was a possible avenue to be explored, but cautioned that metering was very costly for the most part.

“A lot of these are just suggestions,” MacIsaac pointed out.

The town manager also touched upon how COVID-19 has revealed the need to address food security within our region.

“We’ll get food committees and workshops for area residents,” he said, before urging council to go through the documentation at their leisure. “There is some very real and relevant information in there.”

Mayor John Spencer was quick to point out that these changes were absolutely necessary moving forward.

“Our communities are going bankrupt. We are going to bankrupt these communities with the regressive taxation system we have now. Property tax is a regressive tax. You pay more tax because you do up your property,” said MacIsaac. “The funds to municipalities are being stretched to their limit.”

Spencer revealed that the town paid $8,700 last year to run the Train Museum, a building that he called “basically empty”. By comparison, the Town Office cost a little under $11,000 to operate. He also shared that the town pays $78,870 per year for its streetlights and he plans to reduce that cost by taking Newfoundland Power up on their offer.

“They said they’re going to give us as many of those LED lights as we can get. The quicker we can get those LED lights in, the better and smarter we will be, because we’re not getting new money from government,” said Spencer.

Spencer noted that the town’s tax base was shrinking and will only continue to shrink. He noted that the town of Appleton was forced to eliminate its senior discount because they could not longer afford to continue it.

In order to reduce operational costs for the water treatment plant and Bruce II, green energy options such as solar panels and wind power are being explored. It has yet to be determined what alternative will be installed at the Bruce II in place of its current oil and propane system. In evaluating cost savings measures, however, feasibility and durability must be taken into account, particularly when it comes to the potential impact of the area’s typically strong winds on green energy infrastructure.

“The CCCF consultants are currently gathering information to determine what areas and types of energy efficiency upgrades would best address the funding provided. Once that is completed, a formal tender can be prepared to source interested companies,” clarified MacIsaac via e-mail last week.

Once the upgrades to the Bruce II are completed, it is estimated that the town will see an annual cost savings of $170,000.

“We’ve going to have to find a way to get smart,” said Spencer.

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