The Berkshire Regional Planning Committee's executive committee approved the grant application on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is looking for towns interested in splitting some of the costs to hire an energy manager.
The organizations' executive committee gave Assistant Director Thomas Matuszko the go-ahead to apply for a state grant of up to $85,000 over two years to bring on an energy manager.
He is now looking for towns interested in using the manager by splitting the match or taking the lead.
The energy manager could help towns to reduce energy costs in an array of ways — from developing solar or wind projects to working with the schools.
"Its a pretty broad job description," Matuszko said.
The grant does require a match so Matuszko is looking for either one town to take the lead and pay the match or multiple towns to split it and split the number of hours the employee is there. The grant could pay up to $50,000 the first year and then $35,000 the second.
So far, Matuszko said both Lanesborough and Pittsfield have shown interest.
In other business, Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said a stop-work order is expected to be lifted on the organization's report on passenger rail. BRPC is studying locations of train stations along the Housatonic Rail line that goes through South County and into Connecticut but had to stop about a month ago.
Karns said an audit of a federal grant project the Housatonic Railway performed found questions with the way the company documented and charged its staff time. This project was audited as well, and Karns said the billing hours were renegotiated.
"We had two months of stop work over absolutely nothing to do with BRPC and how we operate," Karns said.
With this study, Housatonic had already pledged to perform much more work than required with its match. The organization had to work with the state to reconfigure which hours would account for Housatonic's $60,000 in-kind match. The state grant is providing $240,000.
However, the questions and delay have set BRPC back and Karns said the organization is likely going to have to ask for an extension to complete the work. It had to cancel meetings scheduled with town officials in those communities.
"We lost momentum. There was a point in time when we were getting to the real meat of this," Karns said.
Also discussed on Thursday was a state bill that could deregulate Verizon's land lines in some parts of the state. The executive committee voted to craft a letter in opposition to the bill.
"This is going to really affect us dramatically," said executive committee member Rene Wood. "It is important to us that we don't have our copper lines deregulated in the market."
Karns also reported that the massive Sustainable Berkshires planning research is winding down and the organization is now looking to hold public hearings, have the full commission discuss it throughout the early spring and adopt it in March.
He also said the commission has receive district local assistance grants in the amount of $203,500 and is now soliciting towns for projects.
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