Harpswell’s Resiliency and Sustainability Committee has asked the town to create a $100,000 fund to help pay for future projects related to climate change.

The town has already won two state grants for climate initiatives from the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. A $32,000 grant will pay for an energy audit and new LED lighting at the town office. A $28,000 grant shared with two other towns funded an assessment of changes needed at the Garrison Cove Town Landing to cope with sea level rise.

The Resiliency and Sustainability Committee thinks creating a reserve account will better position the town to prepare for the effects of climate change. 

Committee Chair Mary Ann Nahf said the money could be used to match another grant from the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. She said having a cash match can improve a grant application’s chance of being approved. The account could also help speed up resiliency projects by paying outright for certain steps, such as engineering, rather than waiting for a grant or the next year’s town budget.

The resiliency committee’s request to the Harpswell Budget Advisory Committee for $100,000 in 2023 would allow the town to simultaneously match two state grants of $50,000 each, which is the maximum amount available to towns like Harpswell that have partnered with the state on addressing impacts of climate change. The resiliency committee says the account would also let the town save money for larger projects. The town Select Board would vote on spending from the account.

Anthony Ronzio, deputy director of the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, said the office isn’t aware of any other towns proposing similar accounts, but the idea aligns with the state’s goal of working with communities to improve climate resiliency.

The budget committee proposed a 2023 budget to the Select Board in January that allocates $60,000 for the reserve account, with the remaining $40,000 to be included in the 2024 budget.

Nahf said establishing the reserve account is encouraging, even if it doesn’t include the full amount this year. That will not change the committee’s plans, she said.

“Funding the account over a two-year period allows the committee to proceed with its priorities for 2023 as laid out in the sustainability plan,” Nahf said. And, she added, it sets Harpswell on a path toward implementing larger climate resilience projects in coming years.