For most companies, a state fine for environmental violations is cause for embarrassment or, if the firm feels unduly accused, frustration and anger.
But Saint-Gobain, the French building materials company which employs several thousand people in Central Massachusetts, decided to take a different approach to a $28,000 fine levied against it by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010.
Instead of simply paying the fine, a Saint-Gobain environmental engineer named Joseph Dufresne asked the company if it could approach the state about spending the money on something more directly beneficial to area environmentalists. The result is a new solar-powered classroom pavilion at the Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester, which is run by the Mass Audubon Society.
"Of course nobody likes to have a fine and it's our job not to have fines," said Bob Smith, vice president of bonded abrasives. "I'm really grateful and appreciative of Joe Dufresne for his vision."
The pavilion, which will be used as classroom space for nature and conservation programs, officially opened during a ceremony on Saturday, which was attended by Mayor Joe Petty and other officials as well as visitors.
Smith said the solar panels are valued at $21,000. Saint-Gobain also paid $52,000 in excess of the fine to finance the construction of the pavilion itself, while another $7,000 went to the state.
A subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed, provided the solar system and roofing shingles.
Mass Audubon President Laura Johnson said in a statement that the nonprofit had wanted to build the pavilion for some time, but did not have the funds.
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