The community turned out and spoke up at the Feb. 10 Charlotte selectboard meeting, spurring a debate on the future of net metering and solar investment in the community.
The evening also included an update on the election question raised at the last selectboard meeting, an efficient approval of some necessary town maintenance and permits and the confirmation of Fritz Tegatz as a volunteer clerk of the works for the library addition.
At the last meeting, Sam Carlson of Green Lantern Solar had presented an opportunity for the town to enter into a contract to purchase renewable electricity credits for town buildings, but the selectboard and several meeting attendees expressed concerns about the practicality of the agreement and the financial commitment.
This time around, the parking lot was packed with the cars of citizens who had showed up to make arguments in favor of the selectboard committing to renewable energy.
Green Lantern Solar came back to the board with an updated proposal, but board members were still reluctant to move forward. Louise McCarren was most firmly suspicious of committing to any net metering agreement, saying she had a fiduciary duty to the town’s residents to spend money prudently.
One Charlotte citizen, garnering a smattering of applause after he finished speaking, pointed out that not investing in renewable energy would cost residents money in the long run, as resources deplete with the worsening of climate change. Attendees seemed to agree that the fiduciary duty McCarren spoke of could also mean acting quickly to find renewable energy sources, and urged her to consider their point of view.
Also raised was the question of moral duty — if a town has the resources to invest in a renewable energy system such as net-metering, isn’t it ethical to do so in order for smaller and more rural areas to be protected, since they may not have the capital or resources to attract their own renewable energy development?
Board chair Matt Krasnow expressed his support of solar and net metering, but said his discomfort with moving forward on this particular proposal was that the board had received only two proposals for net metering agreements, and he said he doesn’t believe they will be able to make an informed decision with so few options.
Meeting attendees pushed for the board to publicly commit to moving forward on solar energy/renewable, expressing that they were afraid of the board “getting bogged down in details,” to the point where semantics forced inaction.
At the end of a passionate but respectful discussion, the board voted unanimously to send out a request for proposals for net metering agreements, to be drafted by next Monday, Feb. 17.
CVSD and Selectboard cooperate on elections
Following up on concerns from the last selectboard meeting, Tegatz and Krasnow met with Champlain Valley School District officials to work toward a better plan for election security and space usage.
The board members shared that several of their concerns had been addressed, including a clarification that the security hired on election days would be unarmed — Krasnow had voiced a discomfort with armed security on the property at the same time schoolchildren were attending classes.
CVSD also explained that space usage would be classified differently for smaller elections versus larger ones, addressing a question meeting attendees had voiced on Jan. 27, about how the district could know whether turnout would be below 150 voters ahead of time. The selectboard members said they hope to continue to work closely with CVSD on election planning.
Powerlines, brush hogging and a scoreboard defeat
The selectboard approved a permit request to install utility lines underneath a town highway at 1576 Lake Road and accepted various bids for brush-hogging, mowing and land maintenance.
They began a discussion of who should be responsible for the mulching of various valuable trees, and who should be responsible for the upkeep of a baseball field with several active maintenance needs, possibly including the re-installation of a scoreboard which, as one meeting attendee quipped, “got cut down because someone was tired of looking at it.”