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Around Easthampton: Digester meeting, Old Town Hall lighting on tap

The possibility of the city building an anaerobic digester that would transform food waste and sludge from the wastewater treatment facility into energy is the topic of a public meeting May 7.

The city received a $38,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to hire a consultant to evaluate the technical and economic viability of creating a digester at the wastewater treatment facility off Ferry Street. Tighe & Bond of Westfield will do the study over the next year.

City Planner Jessica Allan said the grant calls for public input in the beginning of the evaluation process.

“If anyone has questions about anaerobic digestion, what it is and how it works, this is the perfect opportunity to ask,” Allan said. “We’re hoping the public can help us to infer what considerations should be examined as we continue with the feasibility study.”

A digester would combine food waste from commercial entities with sludge left over after the city’s wastewater is treated and discharged. Inside the digester, microorganisms would break down the biodegradable material, producing methane that can be used to produce electricity. The process also creates a byproduct that can be used as a fertilizer.

Issues the city has already decided need to be vetted include possible site limitations, the effect of large trucks bringing in food waste and other potential impacts on the neighborhood.

Allan said a digester might cut the city’s spending on sludge disposal and electricity. In the last fiscal year, the city spent $167,572 disposing of sludge off site and $80,711 to power the plant.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building at 50 Payson Ave.

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Open space plan in works

Residents with an interest in seeing natural resources preserved can assist the city in updating the 2006 Open Space and Recreation Plan.

The Open Space Committee is seeking community input through a survey and a visioning workshop at the Municipal Building May 29 at 7 p.m. The plan will direct city planning in terms of preserving and maintaining open spaces, water resources, plant and animal habitat and parks and recreation facilities.

“We’re trying to identify our priorities and goals to update the Open Space and Recreation Plan,” Allan said. The plan was last updated in 2006 and needs to be updated by July, she said. “The strategies we developed then may still be very relevant but there may be new issues to address.”

The survey is available through May 17 on the city’s website at www.easthampton.org. Paper copies are available at the Community Center, the Council on Aging and Enrichment Center and the Emily Williston Memorial Library.

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New light display unveiled

Strollers at Art Walk May 11 can be among the first to see the new colorful light display on the facade of the Old Town Hall when it is illuminated at a lighting ceremony at 8:30 p.m.

The programmable, color-changing lighting system was designed and installed by Valley artist Wade Clement, who has been designing such lighting displays for homes, buildings and other spaces around the country since the 1980s, according to a press release from CitySpace, the nonprofit that runs the historic building.

The building houses Easthampton City Arts Plus, the Flywheel Arts Collective and the Elusie Gallery at Eastmont Custom Framing.

The installment will be revealed to the public just after the “Waste Not, Want Not” Art Walk. Clement’s lighting project fits the theme because it uses energy efficient, long-lasting light-emitting diodes.

“The LED lighting uses 70 percent less energy and requires no maintenance for up to 25 years, both being good for CitySpace’s budget and the environment,” Clement said in a statement.

•••

State official tours city

Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Aaron Gornstein toured a downtown thoroughfare Monday that will benefit from a $10,000 grant from the state department.

The city received the grant to hire the Cecil Group of Boston to study Union Street and suggest possible design improvements, including some that may make the narrow stretch of Route 141 more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

When the city did a similar grant-funded study of Cottage Street in 1999, suggested improvements included traffic-calming measures, better lighting and crosswalk placement and facade improvements.

Gornstein toured Union Street with Mayor Michael A. Tautznik before stopping into the former Dye Works building at 15 Cottage St., where a Boston developer plans to recreate the space as 50 units of affordable rental housing. The Department of Housing and Community Development contributed $2.5 million in housing subsidies to help the $15 million project get off the ground. It is expected to break ground later this year.

•••

Northampton Street
closed Wednesday

Northampton Street will be closed to traffic Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as part of the reconstruction of the bridge over the Manhan River. The street, also known as Route 10, will be closed from the rotary at Main Street to the intersection with West Street. Traffic will be detoured down O’Neill, Lovefield and Pleasant streets and motorists may also use West Street to Loudville Road to bypass the downtown.

The bridge will reopen Wednesday afternoon but will close for six months starting sometime in June, Department of Transportation officials said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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