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Wendy Mackstutis

What are your sustainability goals for Simsbury? (please limit your answer to 250 words)

The question we need to ask ourselves is “What is the community as a whole willing to pay for now to protect the needs in the future?”. That varies from person to person, depending on their available resources, their age, and their commitment to the environment. This is something our boards and commissions need to balance as we make decisions for our community, and it is not always easy.

With the pandemic, we approved the use of federal funds to make HVAC improvements to schools and buildings, as air quality and the ability to use these dollars for those improvements, were key factors. This was not a move to renewable, but it was an improvement to older systems, creating more efficiency, which ultimately benefited the student population.
Our Public Works Department includes an ask for an Energy Manager on their ‘wish list’, but it did not rise to a recommendation from the Town Manager, or our board, as we were faced with other hiring needs and operating costs. I think it would be great to have an Energy Manager, if cost were not an option, but again, we are forced to make choices for our taxpayers and in every budget cycle there are competing needs for these dollars. We somehow have to create a lens to look at both the now and the future in all of our decisions and to be able to not force our residents to bear the total cost.

One goal I have would be to investigate all federal and state opportunities for funding sustainability initiatives, as we are all on the same planet and some of the burden to keep it in working condition should come from more than just our local taxpayers.

Currently, our town and school buildings heat with fossil fuels (e.g., natural gas and oil). What plans do you have to transition them from fossil fuels to renewable sources? (please limit your answer to 250 words)

I don’t know enough about this area, so I can’t weigh in at a detail level. I do not know the complexities of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources. I would defer to our town professionals, including our Public Works Director, and the consulting firms we hire, to understand what we can and can’t do around building heating. It would be a good time to set a policy for our Public Building Commission that alternate heating sources be a component and option when approving new designs and their cost. That would help our boards make informed decision. Case in point was the Latimer Lane project that was estimated with fossil fuels, and then was later asked to provide an estimate for the geothermal piece. The costs had already increased and it was hard to add this onto the taxpayers’ bill for this $40M project without a full understanding of the future savings and benefits.

What plans do you have to transition our town and school fleet of cars, trucks, and school buses to electric vehicles? (please limit your answer to 250 words)

I believe our Police Department is transitioning some of their vehicles to hybrid or electric, and we have discussed this during our budget cycles, although there are supply issues, given the configuration of our vehicles.

The requests for new town vehicles are presented by each department to our board. We have discussed hybrids and transitioning to them in our recent workshops. In order to support them, we would need to expand the network of chargers in town and to evaluate the cost benefit both financially and environmentally.

I would like the town to explore the federal BIL or IIJA money that our Capital Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) is pushing to our municipalities, as there are options to get more chargers at little to no cost. Our Public Works Department Director is always thinking about improvements that result in sustainability and they have done research on locations for new charges. These would benefit  personal cars, too, which also led to the discussion on whether we charge for electricity.

What regulations would you recommend for new housing and commercial developments to reduce carbon emissions? (please limit your answer to 250 words)

We are always discussing solar panels when it comes to new school roofing requests, and I expect those discussions to continue, as we are faced with new requests. There are solar panels in areas of town, most prominently on the Simsbury Farms Ice Rink that were celebrated in November 2019 and is a model that could be followed to source energy for that particular building.

What would you do to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in private homes and businesses in Simsbury?

I would suggest taking advantage of the EnergizeCT and see what they offer to homeowners. A few years ago, there was a push to have them to do home energy assessments in town, and we had them come to our house. They made some recommendations, and also fixed and sealed windows, attic insulation, among other things, and it was done at no cost to us. I believe the Sustainability Commission, formerly known as the Clean Energy Task Force, were the ones sharing this information.