With its verdant trees and rolling lawns, East Hampton Village has long been green in aesthetic. Recently, the Village Board has been taking steps to make it green in spirit as well.
Last Thursday, the board tossed around the idea of banning plastic bags at supermarkets and similar retail stores, as Southampton Village did recently. It also discussed converting from oil to natural gas heat at the Emergency Services Building, whose electricity already is increasingly provided by solar panels. At the same time, the village has been converting its fleet of police cars and such to hybrid vehicles.
Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. had an epiphany of sorts several weeks ago at the East Hampton Nature Trail, he said Tuesday, where he saw “three or four of these plastic bags stuck on the branches around the pond.”
Southampton Village voted on May 1 to enact a ban on plastic bags at retail stores, and Southampton Town is considering a similar measure.
“We took that as a catalyst to try to accomplish a similar goal here in East Hampton,” Mayor Rickenbach said. “Plastic doesn’t disintegrate or blend in with the organic landscape.”
Village Attorney Linda Riley is working on language for such a ban, which in Southampton Village will pertain only to certain sizes of bags at certain types of stores and will not go into effect for six months.
“We want to be user friendly,” Mayor Rickenbach said of a similar grace period in East Hampton, and allow merchants a period “of education and adjustment.”
“Environmentally speaking, we’re totally behind it,” said Steve Lilga, the general manager at Hampton Market Place on Race Lane, when asked for a comment on Tuesday. “As long as we get to use what we’ve got.”
“Whatever helps future generations is a help to all of us,” he said.
Managers at Waldbaum’s on Newtown Lane and at CVS on Pantigo Road deferred to corporate headquarters, and the manager at the IGA on North Main Street had Tuesday off.
As far as buildings go, the Emergency Services Building, which is open around the clock, is the village’s biggest consumer of energy, according to Village Administrator Larry Cantwell. That is why, he said Monday, the village tackled that one first when it started, about three years ago, “to evaluate energy demands—to use less, to be environmentally friendly.”
The village has been incrementally adding solar panels to the Emergency Services Building, each time converting another 10 kilowatts to solar energy. LIPA will pay half the cost up to that limit each year.
In addition, Mr. Cantwell said, the village secured a federal grant through the New York Energy Research Development Agency. The grant allowed the village to add 32 kilowatts’ worth of solar panels to the existing 20 kilowatts at the Emergency Services Building, plus 15 kilowatts at the Public Works Department Building on Accabonac Road, which is the second-biggest energy hog in the village.
The grant is $280,000, and the village picks up only about $70,000 of the tab.
“This year we’re completing that project,” Mr. Cantwell said. “We’re going to reduce our electric costs by one third for those two buildings,” he said, which were costing about $150,000 annually combined.
“Over time, with the electric rate increases that you can expect, we will save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the 25-year life” of the panels, he said.
In addition, the Village Board has been thinking about converting the heating systems in its bigger buildings from oil to gas. Those systems are starting to break down and will need to replaced before long.
The State Power Authority will provide assistance to improve the buildings’ energy-efficiency, Mr. Cantwell said. It will pay to “put together a package” describing the best kind of system and helping to design it, hire contractors, and get the work done. “You pay them back with the energy savings until, over time, until you’ve paid back for that,” he explained.
Finally, “we are slowly going to convert our fleets,” he said. So far, two police vehicles, one fire vehicle and one Public Works Department vehicle have been replaced with hybrid ones. As others are decommissioned, other hybrids will follow.