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Thetford to Hold Forum on Solar Panels at School

Thetford — Officials will let residents weigh in next month on whether to install solar panels atop the Thetford Elementary School.

Selectboard members on Monday voted in favor of warning for a special Town Meeting to discuss the construction of a 150 kilowatt array that would offset electricity costs and generate renewable energy for the elementary school, municipal buildings and street lights.

Bob Walker, chairman of the Thetford Energy Committee and a member of the solar committee, said on Thursday that the special meeting will be held on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. at the elementary school. Voting will take place from the floor unless a ballot vote is called.

One of two articles on the warning will ask for voter approval to borrow a sum not to exceed $400,000 to construct the array. The second article would exempt the solar structure from municipal taxes.

Walker said because the array has property value, it could be taxed at the municipal level. He said, however, state legislation gives towns the ability to waive municipal taxes on renewable energy systems.

“If they (the company who would build the array) are going to be taxed more, it would be less profits that would be able to come to the town because there would be less profits for the company,” Walker said, in regard to the second article.

Selectboard Chairman Donn Downey said the majority of board members do support the project, “but the town should play a role in this.”

Selectboard member Tig Tillinghast said project details are still being firmed up and “if the school or town determine that some factor would make this too risky, that meeting could be canceled.”

Vt. Officials Approve
$2.1 Million for LIHEAP

Montpelier — Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Emergency Board on Thursday approved an additional $2.1 million in funding to help low-income residents heat their homes this winter, as the state continued to step in to offset cuts in federal funding.

The 2013 Legislature approved $6 million for this program as part of the annual appropriation bill, with the expectation that additional funds might be necessary. The total amount of funds for this year’s LIHEAP will be approximately $25.7 million. Funds will be distributed in the first half of November.

No state funds were contributed to LIHEAP prior to federal fiscal year 2005. In recent years, federal funds have steadily declined from a high of $38.6 million in 2009 to an expected $17 million for this winter.

“While everyone understands that Vermont, like other states, cannot make up for all of the federal cutbacks coming our way, keeping our needy neighbors from freezing in their homes in the winter has to be a priority,” Shumlin said.

— Staff and wire reports