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Devens Eco-Efficiency Center asks for additional $200,000


DEVENS — The Devens Enterprise Commission may invest an extra $200,000 in the Eco-Efficiency Center as part of next year’s budget.

DEC Executive Committee members met Tuesday morning to brainstorm the budget for fiscal 2015, which begins July 1. Funds for the Devens Eco-Efficiency Center, along with iPads for the commissioners, topped the wish list.

Dona Neely, executive director of the DEEC, asked the committee for $200,000 to eliminate the center’s net deficit and hire more staff. The DEC has an extra $550,000 in revenue from permit fees for the $750 million Bristol-Myers Squib project completed in 2009.

Neely, who serves as the DEEC’s only staff member, said she is challenged both with limited grant money and a poor economy that leaves businesses unable to pay for the center’s services.

“It’s also challenging being a one-woman operation because I have to manage all the administrative responsibility of the nonprofit as well as design, develop and deliver out the programs and the services that the center is offering to the community,” Neely said. “With those two constraints, it’s all I can do to keep my head above water.”

The money would also go to engaging more firms in the center’s sustainability programs.

“It’s an ideal time because sustainability is becoming more a priority for businesses and there’s more of an understanding about how being a better environmental performer actually has financial benefits,” Neely said.

The DEEC plans to balance all of its operational expense with a five-year plan, she said.

DEC Chairman William Marshall warned against funding the DEEC without any noticeable benefits, arguing that the return on DEC’s investment should ultimately come in the form of more companies moving into Devens.

But DEC Director Peter Lowitt said the DEEC has already helped attract companies from all over the world.

“We can probably point to a few companies that have come here, like the Devens Solid Waste, Devens Recycling and a couple of others that have benefited from the fact that the Eco-Efficiency Center is here and helped them in their decision to locate here,” he said.

The DEC will need to receive a special presentation on the extra funding, Lowitt said.

The committee is also brainstorming strategies to go paperless, which includes possible iPads for the commissioners. DEC officials will also be meeting with public records officials to see how many files they can digitize, Lowitt said.

“That’s something we’re trying to do because we’re scrunched for space and we’ve been shifting a lot of stuff down in the basement,” he said. “That can only go on for so long.”

Another critical budget item is the long-term development of a shuttle station between Devens and the Littleton train stations. The dual track stop, expected on the Fitchburg line in 2016, could cut down on commuter time and bring in earlier trains of outbound commuters.

Lowitt said the issue has also been brought before gubernatorial candidates who pass through the area.

“We’re asking them if they’ll support a viable reverse commute from Devens and Fitchburg to really put some pressure on whoever the new governor is to support the continued growth of our investment in the Fitchburg line,” he said.

The executive committee also discussed editing the DEC’s operational bylaws to reflect the current use of alternate commissioners and other minor adjustments. The committee will discuss budget ideas with the commission as they construct a final draft of the budget some time before July 1.

Follow Amelia on Twitter and Tout @AmeliaPakHarvey.