EASTHAMPTON — The city has received $68,700 in three separate state grants that will help cover municipal water infrastructure improvements and two new electric vehicle charging stations.
The first Green Communities grant is for $50,800 and will fully cover heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements to four Department of Public Works wastewater treatment buildings. Another grant for $2,900 covers the majority of a furnace replacement at the DPW’s Lovefield Street wastewater pump station. The last grant totals $15,000 for the cost of two electric vehicle charging stations for four cars near Millside Park.
A preliminary study called the “Integrated Water Resources Management Plan Report,” released last December, called for Easthampton to invest $22 million over five years to improve and maintain its aging water treatment, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said the two DPW grants are going toward recommendations that were made in the report, adding that the report has not yet been finalized.
Both the HVAC improvements and the furnace replacement help to mitigate the large amounts of electricity and energy used by outdated machinery.
“It’s really a deferred maintenance issue in which we are woefully behind,” she said. “We are talking about a wastewater treatment plant that was updated in the late ’70s.”
Although the old infrastructure “still meets the needs of the residents of Easthampton,” LaChapelle said, as the effects of climate change become increasingly widespread, the city is committed to doing as much as it can to alleviate the city’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s going to happen one way or another,” she said about improving the city’s outdated water infrastructure. “We will take every penny of grant money, especially around water and climate change.”
City Planner Jeffrey Bagg said the Lovefield Pump Station furnace replacement partially covers the total cost of $3,600, adding that the remaining $700 will come from the DPW’s budget.
The city report also calls for an increase in water and sewer rates — with water going up to $4.19 from $3.05 per 100 cubic feet and sewer to $10.48 from $4.50 per 100 cubic feet. LaChapelle noted that these were just recommendations and that the Board of Public Works would have to approve any rate increases.
But when asked if rate increases were on the horizon, LaChapelle said, “Yeah, absolutely.
“But when and how much, we’re trying to figure that out,” she said.
As for the electric vehicle charging station grant, the funds cover only the cost of the equipment itself. The city is working with Eversource through its “Make Ready Program” to secure funding to cover installation costs. Bagg said Eversource has not given the city an estimate on how much installation would cost.
The city has also applied for money through the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program for two additional charging stations at the Municipal Building, according to a statement. The city hopes to receive funds from Eversource’s incentive program to help cover costs for that project as well.
“The idea is that we are stacking green community grant money with other programs to get money for four EV chargers in the city,” LaChapelle said.
Michael Connors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.