January 17, 2019

Environmentalist vies for town energy coordinator position

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

About two-thirds of the way through the Town of Williston’s new five-year Comprehensive Plan is a recommendation that the town designate a resident to serve as Williston’s “energy coordinator.”

Members of the selectboard could be forgiven if they didn’t recall that exact provision of the 14-chapter document four months after unanimously adopting it in August.

Last week, local environmental activist Brian Forrest pressed the issue, appearing before the board in a surprise bid to fill the role. A retired architect and member of Transition Town Williston (see related story), Forrest helped the planning commission draft the energy chapter of the comprehensive plan where the recommendation appears.

“I was a little surprised to see it on the (agenda),” board member Jeff Fehrs acknowledged during the Dec. 5 meeting, “because I had never heard of the energy coordinator. Do we need the position? Do we want the position?”

According to the comprehensive plan, the energy coordinator’s role is to “monitor energy use and coordinate long range planning that helps the town conserve energy and save money.” It also would see that the town does its part to help the state achieve its goal to meet 90 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2050.

Forrest’s vision for the position is to work with a citizen task force to craft an energy plan for Williston with measurable goals “to chart where we are and where we want to go,” he said. It would include an assessment of possible renewable energy sites and energy consumption in public buildings. The town’s comprehensive plan recommends the formation of such a task force and calls on the energy coordinator to oversee it.

“I see it as an interface between the town and state agencies and non-governmental groups that wish to give input into the town’s energy future and the town’s energy model,” he said.

Forrest believes 2050 is a looming tipping point for global climate change and that the only sustainable course of action is to change course on energy consumption.

“We have a deadline,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time … I’m not a person who wants this job. This is a job that is seeking a person.”

Spurred by Forrest’s application, the selectboard released an advertisement seeking other candidates for the position before making a decision. It has posted the ad on the town website, town.williston.vt.us, under volunteer openings. The term of the position is yet to be decided.

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