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March 28, 2013

Spending to save money in Methuen

Firm asks for $3.5M for green measures, promises savings

METHUEN — Several councilors are cautious about a $3.5 million contract to replace old boilers and implement other energy saving measures following a pitch for the work last week.

Ameresco, a Framingham environmental services company, said they guarantee energy savings, adding that energy savings would pay for the up-front borrowing required to do the work. Under a new state law, the work could be done all at once with a company like Ameresco subcontracting work and managing multiple smaller projects as a larger whole.

Councilors, who would have to approve any contract and borrowing for the project, said they liked the idea of energy efficiency and the infrastructure upgrades, but wanted to see a contract first and to review how energy spending in the city has changed over the last few years.

“I understand we want to do the energy savings, but I want to see how Tom Kelley (city auditor) says it will affect us,” said Councilor Jennifer Kannan.

Officials from Ameresco and from energy consulting company Peregrine Energy Group detailed what improvements would be made and how the work would be paid for. They told councilors and School Committee members many times that borrowing would be paid for using savings from reduced energy spending and would not impact the tax rate.

“I’d like to see the contract first,” said Counselor Jamie Atkinson, who is in favor of the improvements.

If Methuen decided to hire Ameresco, the city would come up with $3.5 million for a list of several dozen improvements to school and city buildings. About 60 percent of it would be work on school buildings.

One of the major expenses would be replacing the dehumidifying system in the ice rink and installing a “low-e” ceiling that absorbs ambient heat. School officials have said those improvements, and reductions in operating costs, could allow the School Department to keep the rink open for renting all year.

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