Founding energy commission member says farewell
Bruce Hampson, a retired engineer and Wilton resident of about 26 years, recently stepped down from his position on the Wilton Energy Commission — two months prior to reaching his 10-year term limit.
Hampson said he served as energy commission chair for about six years before stepping down from that position in 2015, and was one of the commission’s nine founding members.
The Wilton Energy Commission was formed in 2007 after then-First Selectman Bill Brennan “looked at the town and school budgets,” said Hampson, and noticed that “energy was a major element.”
“At that time, energy was increasing in cost rather significantly,” said Hampson, “so it was Bill’s idea and his initiative to establish the energy commission.”
On the present commission, Hampson said, he and Richard Creeth were the only founding members left.
Creeth — who currently co-chairs with Debra Thompson-Van — will reach his 10-year term limit on Sept. 1, and Hampson said he is certain Thompson-Van will become the commission’s only chair.
Shortly before the energy commission was formed, Hampson retired as the general manager for a business unit of The Trane Company — a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning manufacturer and building management systems and controls company. The company, he said, designed and installed management systems in “major, major skyscrapers, hospitals and universities in New York.”
“The other responsibility that we had was to maintain comfort systems in all of these buildings,” he said. A few months after retiring, Hampson said, “I saw in the paper that Bill Brennan was considering forming an energy commission, so I raised my hand.”
Hampson said one of the energy commission’s “greatest accomplishments” that he is proud of is the creation of an “ethic of energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy in Wilton,” which has been recognized by neighboring communities and the state.
The creation of the ethic, Hampson said, had a “significant” effect on the town and “many initiatives flowed from that.”
Around 2009-2010, the town of Wilton received a $76,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the federal government “to be used exclusively for energy-efficiency initiatives,” said Hampson. “One of the first things that we, the commission, did with that $76,000 is hire a consultant to develop an energy management plan for the town.”
The plan outlined how the town could implement initiatives for energy efficiency in the future, said Hampson, and “the state and Eversource — CL&P at the time — felt it was probably the most complete plan for any municipality of our size.”
One of the first recommendations in the plan was the creation of a director of facilities and energy management position for the town, which was filled by Chris Burney in 2015.
The grant money was also used to install LED lamps in school parking lots, said Hampson, as well as “various other minor items in buildings,” such as occupancy sensors for the lights at town hall.
Hampson is also proud of the energy commission’s success in recommending and implementing “a lot of energy-efficiency programs at no cost to the town.”
For example, the town pledged to reduce its municipal and school energy usage by 20% and increase its clean energy usage by 2018 as part of Connecticut’s Clean Energy Communities program.
Hampson said Clean Energy Communities offers “tremendous grants and assistance” and it is through the Wilton Energy Commission that the town is able to participate in the energy efficiency and clean energy programs.
In recent years, the state has awarded annual grants to towns that have made progress in energy efficiency, said Hampson, and for the past three years, Wilton has received $24,000.
“The first grant of $10,000 we used as seed money to insulate the historic yellow building at Ambler Farm, [which] didn’t have an ounce of insulation in it. With that seed money — plus additional grants from the state — that cost the town zero [dollars],” said Hampson.
“Most recently, our last grant was $14,500 and we used that to re-lamp town hall, the annex and Department of Public Works with LED lighting. In addition to that seed money, Eversource provided a conservation grant and a four-year loan at 0% interest for the balance. The savings from the LEDs were greater than our loan payment, so that cost the town zero [dollars].”
Following Solarize Wilton in 2016, through which solar panels were installed on 25 homes in town, the energy commission’s current largest project is the solar power purchasing agreement.
The energy commission put out a request for proposals and selected a vendor that will own, install and maintain solar panels at Miller-Driscoll, Middlebrook and “hopefully” Wilton High School, said Hampson.
He said the vendor will work “very closely” with the Green Bank — a state agency that works in the public-private sector to provide financing for energy projects.
“The solar panels will generate power and we will actually buy that power at a cost significantly below what we’re paying to Eversource,” said Hampson.
A 20-year contract would be signed, said Hampson, and not only will the project make Wilton “more green,” he said, but it should also save the town around $2 million.
Now that he is no longer on the energy commission, Hampson said, he plans to spend time continuing to be “significantly involved” with the Bridgeport-based Champions Mentoring Program.
The program provides youth services and mentoring for children whose parents are incarcerated and for the last six years, Hampson said, he’s been mentoring “a young man whose mom and dad are both incarcerated.”
Hampson said he will also continue serving as treasurer of Lambert Common condominiums, but his “most important role” — and one he hopes to do more often — is spoiling his three grandchildren.
As for the Wilton Energy Commission, Hampson said, its members have “a different responsibility from other commissions in town.”
“All of the initiatives and energy projects that we recommend and implement come from the ideas and talents, skill level and experience of the commission members,” he said.
“Going forward, I hope that candidates will be well vetted for that role.”
What Hampson said he will miss most about the Wilton Energy Commission is working with its members and others in the community who are engaged and supportive of energy conservation.