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September 28, 2010 (All day)
Fitchburg Sentinel

 

FITCHBURG -- A weatherization program is improving living conditions and making home heating more affordable for people living in the Elm Street neighborhood, community leaders said Monday.

The Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) and Twin Cities Community Development Corporation mark one year of collaboration on weatherization projects this week, according to MOC Executive Director Kathleen McDermott.

So far, contractors have outfitted five multifamily homes on High Street with new insulation and worked on sealing up drafts that tend to plague older homes.

"Weatherizing of homes saves money, makes heating more affordable, creates jobs and just makes homes much more comfortable to live in," McDermott said before a press conference outside one of the High Street homes undergoing weatherization.

MOC has always offered weatherization programs, but additional funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allowed the agency to take on three times as many projects, McDermott said.

Unitil Corp. also donated about $18,000 to help pay for the High Street weatherization projects, Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara said.

The $3 million project extends to the entire North Central Massachusetts region. It is expected to continue until 2012 when the ARRA funding ends.

McDermott said the plan is to weatherize 500 units, including apartments within multifamily homes, by the project deadline. Twin Cities staff reached out to residents and landlords to inform them of weatherization opportunities in the Elm Street area who meet income guidelines required by the project.

"They're old homes, drafty homes, and the tenants here will all meet the requirements of the weatherization program," said Twin Cities Executive Director Marc Dohan.

The hope is to weatherize up to 15 homes in the Elm Street neighborhood. Dohan said the program fit right into a larger neighborhood revitalization project that began three years ago, meant to remove blight and improve neighborhood safety.

The expansion of weatherization in North Central Massachusetts has helped support more jobs at a higher rate of pay for workers in the industry, said Henry Zacharewicz, owner of Liberty Insulation, the contractor hired by MOC to weatherize the High Street homes.

"We're at houses longer now, so we could use an extra man to pick up the slack," Zacharewicz noted.  Employees must also be paid the higher prevailing wage required for public works projects, he added.

Mayor Lisa Wong, state Rep. Stephen DiNatale, D-Fitchburg, state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, and Jeffrey Simon, director of the Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment Office, were all guests at Monday's press conference.

Wong hailed MOC and Twin Cities officials for their work in the community.  "We are partnering with families, with neighborhood residents, with homeowners and that's

what's really important," Wong said.

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