Scott Bender, Thomas F. Skelly, Jr.
The three-person, elected Board of Public Works oversees the Department of Public Works (DPW), which consists of the following programs: Engineering, Park, Highway, Recycling & Disposal, Management Services, Water, and Sewer and sits on the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant Board as well.
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
As a life-long Wellesley resident, I am committed to excellence in town-wide infrastructure, responsible resource utilization and fiscal responsibility. The path that led to the DPW started in 2002 when I toured solar homes and became excited to learn about renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation… I was hooked! I tried everything under (and including) the sun to maximize conservation and efficiency. In the process I learned what works and doesn’t work.
Enthusiastic about sharing this with the community, I invited other engaged residents and founded Sustainable Wellesley. That same year I was appointed by the Board of Selectmen (BoS) to the Town’s Green Ribbon Study Committee (GRSC) to establish an emissions baseline, reduction goal and Sustainable Energy Plan. At the conclusion of the GRSC I was again appointed by the BoS to the Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC). In both organizations, I spent more than 10 years engaged in community outreach including organizing a series of seminars, often sponsored by Wellesley’s Municipal Light Plant, featuring programs and incentives targeting residential energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy.
During my eight years on the SEC I had many opportunities to work with board members and employees of the Municipal Light Plant and Department of Public Works, including the Recycling and Disposal Facility (RDF), and forged relationships with past MLP Director Dick Joyce, as well as our new MLP Director, Don Newell.
I am an Engineer with decades of experience evaluating new technologies, designing and implementing solutions. As a Product Manager I have successfully managed multiple, multi-million dollar projects on time and within budget. My experience with strategic planning and product lifecycle management qualifies me to work with the DPW and MLP teams to further optimize processes in town infrastructure improvement and maintenance and resource utilization - including preparing to mitigate climate change in financially and environmentally compatible ways.
I have successfully leveraged Municipal programs to inspire individual action. Now, I am excited to work on the Board of Public Works to develop programs and policies for residential, commercial and municipal sectors. There is a huge financial and environmental win-win opportunity that will enable us all to save money, reduce waste and improve infrastructure. Together with the DPW and MLP staff we can make critical decisions that will improve the quality of life in our town for years to come.
Personally, our household has reduced its waste and water usage while living a normal Wellesley lifestyle. More significantly, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 80% while saving thousands of dollars annually on energy costs in our home. I aim to achieve comparable goals for the whole town.
If elected, I would work to mitigate climate change in financially and environmentally compatible ways and prioritize the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be a steward of the environment in all my decision-making.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr.-
I have been a Town Meeting Member for over 20 years and have voted to support all the sustainability issues presented to Town Meeting to date. I have 34 solar panels on my roof and drive a Tesla. I am a huge lover of the environment and will be on a 30-mile hike while you are having your candidate forum on March 8th. Sorry I will not be there.
2. Beyond current initiatives, how could the DPW expand its contribution to the Town’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste? What goals for greenhouse gas reduction and waste reduction would you support for DPW operations?
Scott Bender -
While the overarching priority is to maintain safe, high quality and efficiently maintained infrastructure, there are a variety of ways the DPW can do it's part. Some are occurring presently and some can be enhanced. For example:
With 250+ gas leaks in Wellesley, I intend to educate and encourage our community to move away from gas, as the infrastructure is deteriorating. In addition, by having the Wellesley DPW collaborate with other communities I hope to accelerate National Grid’s rate of gas leak repair and pipe replacement. This would contribute to greenhouse gas reduction, a Town goal.
I will continue to collaborate on initiatives to increase the financial benefit of the RDF, while reducing our community's waste stream. I will work to steer Wellesley towards reducing the amount of waste going to landfills by building on already successful initiatives like the food-waste diversion project, and seek ways to increase resident participation of the RDF while reducing the amount of trash generated by the community through education.
The DPW can prioritize identification of projects to support the town’s Complete Streets Policy approved in Spring 2019. Complete Streets promises to provide safe accessible options for walking, biking and transit vehicles to contribute to the safety, health and quality of life in our community.
In addition, I will support the DPW’s programs which protect our town’s water supply, and look for ways to work with other boards like the Natural Resources Commission to protect our wellhead areas, and further encourage our community to reduce pesticide use. I would also like to explore and implement the latest in natural stormwater infrastructure. For instance, the natural infrastructure techniques used throughout Fuller Brook Park may be applicable elsewhere in town. I’m excited about the town’s participation in the new Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which aligns with my goal of having the DPW and our whole town prepared to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr. -
I believe the BPW/MLP can be a leader in renewable energy for the town by building solar arrays over several town lots they manage and suggesting putting solar on town buildings. Producing our own power in town makes more sense than buying it from solar and wind farms far away from town. Local energy generation shows the town walks the walk when it comes to renewable energy. They can also be the primary driver behind allowing more people to sign up for 100% renewable electricity generation at the MLP.
As for the RDF we must introduce new people in town to our world renown recycling facility. Since we properly separate our waste we have a larger the return for the town when we sell our plastics, newspaper, cardboard, glass and cans. (do you realize the town receives 7 cents per aluminum can rather than five) Most new people to town simply hire a third party. We must reengage our citizens to recycle with and for the town again.
3. Since “the greenest kilowatt hour is the kilowatt hour not used,” what are your ideas for the MLP to increase energy conservation and efficiency town-wide?
Scott Bender -
In the municipal sector, our MLP has done great work to fund energy audits for municipal buildings and the recent LED streetlight conversion project realized significant long term savings. Our Facilities Management Department (FMD) does a tremendous job in tracking usage information and executing improvements prioritized from the energy audits. Since the municipal sector represents only a few percent of the town-wide emissions, I will work with the board and staff to design programs to facilitate conservation and efficiency in residential and commercial sectors. For the residents that have found challenges to implement recommendations from energy audits, I will work to implement common solutions and vendor guidance. I will also explore best practice for commercial programs, such as lighting retrofit programs, as implemented in other communities.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr. -
The MLP is one of the most innovative departments in town. The purchasing of electric power for the heating of over 600 apartment units in town is a huge win for conservation. Otherwise those units are heated with oil or gas. I believe using incentives to entice developers in this manner in the future will benefit the town. Every new building in town is closer and closer to LEED certification or Net Zero Energy. We are moving in the right direction. While the chair of Advisory I placed an environmental advocate onto the School Building Committee.
4. Aside from conservation and increasing efficiency, what are your ideas for actions the MLP can take to help reduce our Town’s greenhouse gas emissions?
I will prioritize meeting the town-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals and forge further ahead to getting more renewable energy powering Wellesley. I will continue to promote and incentivize electrification of our lives to transition Wellesley off of fossil fuels. Specifically, I will continue to advocate for smart meters, as well as time-of-use rates in combination with electrification of heating and transportation. These provide a unique win-win-win opportunity: electric vehicles and heat pumps generate more revenue for the MLP, save money for residents, and reduce emissions for the environment.
In recent months I have worked together with a group of residents on a Citizens petition to bring to Town Meeting an article and motion:
That the Town express its support for the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (WMLP) to enroll all Town electricity customers in the WMLP Voluntary Renewable Energy Program (VREP) by adding a VREP fee of 7% to the electric portion of the utility bill, with the understanding that any customer may opt out of the program, thereby avoiding the monthly VREP fee. Any VREP fee collected shall be used to fund voluntary renewable energy measure(s) to be selected by the WMLP for their impact on greenhouse gas emissions reduction that may include:
1. the purchase of renewable electricity for the customer’s home or business as is currently offered;
2. funding of local projects in Wellesley that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as the installation of community solar generation facilities, battery storage capacity, electric vehicle charging stations, or other similar programs.
The petition is the result of months of collaboration with town boards including the Sustainable Energy Committee, Municipal light Board, Advisory Committee, Board of Selectmen and Natural Resource Commission. I am already working with the Municipal Light Board members on the future of the VREP program and look forward to Town Meeting and town-wide engagement.
Thomas F. Skelly, Jr.-
As mentioned above allowing more developers and homeowner’s to see the benefits of our towns low electric rates and how those rates would compare with heating their properties with oil and gas. I would push to have charging stations throughout town for electric vehicles. As the technology advances I would urge the town to purchase greener vehicles. As a town we must start to face the fact that transportation is causing us to miss our GHG targets. For example, starting a campaign to have or children be bused to schools rather than driven would cut down on emissions. For 20 years plus I have been hearing from parents about how they want walkable schools. There is a disconnect between what people are saying and what they are doing.