NORWAY — Town Manager Dennis Lajoie hosted a discussion recently among representatives from state, county, municipal and nonprofit agencies on how the town approaches infrastructure improvements that provide environmental benefits and cut operating expenses.

The purpose was to create a primer of sorts for communities to blend clean energy initiatives as climate change and technologies change the business of infrastructure.

Hannah Pingree, director of the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation & the Future, said her staff is interested in knowing more about the processes Norway has established for infrastructure planning, as well as the role Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments so the office can better assist other communities navigate similar tracks.

Hannah Pingree, director for the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation and the Future, and state Rep. Sawin Millett of Waterford listen recently to a discussion on creating a primer for communities to combine climate-friendly strategies with infrastructure improvement projects. It was hosted by Norway Town Manager Dennis Lajoie at the Town Office. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

“Norway is way ahead,” Pingree said. “We’re here to learn about what you’ve done and how you plan ahead. We’re trying to figure out how to help towns in Maine who haven’t done all this planning get caught up. They have the same problems, so how does AVCOG participate?”

Even before he became town manager, Lajoie said, the town’s municipal leaders were focused on finding practical solutions to stem increasing energy costs while managing services like its public wastewater system.

Those solutions have included an energy audit of the municipal headquarters and upgrades that have saved money, utilizing grant funds to install a solar system to process wastewater and installing LED bulbs and smart technology to operate streetlights.


“Of Norway’s $100,000 Central Maine Power bill, half of that goes to operate the treatment plant each year,” Lajoie said. By using a process called solar bees energy, costs have been reduced, also reducing what taxpayers need to contribute.

“We partnered with Oxford and Paris to convert streetlights in the three town,” he said. “And we went a step further and put smart technology in. You can control the lights, brighten or dim them. When we did that, our light bill went from around $50,000 down to $12,000.”

A healthy reserve fund is critical to utilizing grant programs that support improvements and upgrades to be able to match available funds. In the case of the streetlights, Norway used its reserve account to make a one-time investment and cover its matching expenses.

“The town did not have to borrow money and the investment is paid back within five years,” Lajoie said.

Other initiatives that have saved Norway money and reduced its carbon output have been simpler. The Select Board approved an anti-idling policy for town vehicles, another energy savings and climate-saving action.

The Center for and Ecology-based Economy, represented by Scott Vlaun and Claire McGlinchey, has been an important partner in the process of adapting ecologically sustainable systems in. Lajoie and Vlaun take a long view to identify projects that bring those dual benefits. One example was installing an electric vehicle charger and adding a solar array to offset the energy needed to operate it.


Norway Town Manager Dennis Lajoie, second from right, hosts a discussion recently on how the town approaches infrastructure improvements that provide environmental benefits and cut operating expenses. Listening at the Town Office are, from left, Scott Vlaun of the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, Ron Prue of Pinetree Engineering and Yvette Meunier of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

“It’s about opportunities and the town being proactive,” Lajoie said. “We work at how to explain to people who may be on one side of climate or the other.

“The explanations I always give to the board is, rainstorms come, they wash out roads and we don’t want that to happen,” he said. “It puts our infrastructure at risk. Maybe the difference is made between a six-inch culvert and an eight-inch culvert. That’s not political, it’s a problem.

“A seasonal brook that at certain times of the year that could wash out a road? Now the infrastructure is stronger, and there is less risk to people who live in those neighborhoods.”

According to Prue, president of Pinetree Engineering in Bath, Norway is the most progressive of the 10 communities he works with on planning and engineering projects.

“Norway is always thinking ahead. They do their project planning and are ready when grant opportunities become available.”

AVCOG Regional Resiliency Coordinator Yvette Meunier agreed, saying of the five counties she covers, Oxford is well ahead of Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec and Somerset.


“Oxford has seven towns in partnership with AVCOG” on programs that address climate change, Meunier said, adding that Norway-based Center for and Ecology-based Economy has been able to influence surrounding communities to adopt planning strategies with grants to help implement them.

“It’s about applying practical solutions, getting progressive projects done in a somewhat conservative town,” Lajoie said. “No one wants to pay taxes.

“You approach it as an energy issue that comes down to cost, not climate.” he said. “Norway has always worked to keep tax rates down while providing services as best they can. We’re always looking for solutions to counter increasing expenses. These are practical solutions with taxpayer and climate benefits.”

Others participating in the discussion were Pingree associates Sarah Curran and Brian Ambrette, state Rep. Sawin Millett of Waterford, Dan Burgess of the Governor’s Engery Office and former Norway Selectman Tom Curtis.

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