Burlington approves $20 million for green energy ideas, rejects $40 million for infrastructure repairs

The majority of Burlington residents are on board with supporting a “net-zero” energy policy via a $20 million Net Zero Energy Revenue Bond for the Burlington Electric Department.

However, a $40 million General Obligation bond proposal for infrastructure improvements such as roads, water systems, and sidewalks was sent back to the drawing board.

This week the infrastructure bill received a majority of the votes with 57 percent, but it needed two-thirds for approval.

“If passed, the $40 million bond would have continued Capital Plan investments in streets, sidewalks, bridges, civic assets, and information technology and public safety infrastructure. Approval of the GO Bond would have resulted in moderate tax impacts over time,” the city’s press release states.

During a special election last year, candidates said they were hearing from constituents about infrastructure problems including inadequate stormwater runoff in parts of the city. The mayor said officials are still committed to addressing these issues.

“Over the coming weeks, the City team will evaluate how to most effectively move forward in this period of uncertainty and many competing challenges to find another route to address our public infrastructure needs that the taxpayers can support,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said.

The net-zero energy bond is pitched as “cost-neutral to ratepayers” and will promote various green transportation, heating, and energy initiatives.

Weinberger is fully supportive of the efforts.

“The Net Zero Energy Revenue Bond is a first of its kind, a fiscally-responsible opportunity that will bring Burlington one step closer to achieving some of the most ambitious climate goals nationwide,” he said.

Net-zero energy means zero carbon emissions, which means gas-powered cars, most conventional heating methods (oil/heat/wood, etc.), and carbon-based electricity (including cheap and low-carbon natural gas) will continue to be pushed aside for their green energy counterparts.

The Burlington Electric Department is also behind this.

“Burlington Electric Department thanks our community for supporting the Net Zero Energy Revenue Bond which will provide a foundational investment for climate progress and grid reliability,” said Darren Springer, General Manager of Burlington Electric Department.

The city may get state funding for infrastructure fixes regardless, the state has received $2.2 billion from the federal infrastructure bill which recently passed. Among this money, the state is planning to spend $22.5 million on updating public transit, which includes its own green initiatives such as more electric cars, buses, and trucks.

On the Burlington City website, there are details of the city’s current infrastructure goals.

“2021 presents another significant opportunity for capital construction progress,” the report states. “While we are at the end of the 2016 Infrastructure funding for sidewalks, water mains, and paving, thanks to community support we will be making use of supplemental funding to again triple our sidewalk rebuilding this year. Paving bids have been challenging due to Covid-influenced materials price increases. Some of that work may be delayed.”

The State of Vermont is currently a C average in its 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers report card.

“Vermont’s transportation infrastructure is aging, and future needs are significant,” the report states. Some key points include the average Vermont bridge is 57 years old, whereas the national average is 43.

On the recent passage of a $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, Gov. Phil Scott had this to say in November.

“I am very pleased to see this bipartisan infrastructure bill pass the House and move toward the President’s desk,” he wrote. “This bill, with support from both sides of the aisle, is a very important step forward for our country and will significantly benefit our state.”

Critics say that the federal infrastructure bill is also packed with ambitious green energy initiatives which some critics say are likely to drive up living costs.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Dick Hawyard