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June 28, 2013

Methuen schools ask Council to OK contract with Ameresco

METHUEN — School officials are urging the City Council to contract with an environmental services company to make energy efficiency upgrades to city and school buildings.

Superintendent Judith Scannell wrote a letter, with the backing of the School Committee, to the Council Wednesday outlining some of the work that would be done to upgrade heating and lighting systems and to repair and improve the nearly four-decade-old ice rink.

“Other capital investments will allow us to benefit system-wide from projects that are currently outside the school department’s ability to pay for,” she said. “The sooner these projects are completed, the sooner we’ll reduce our reliance on expensive energy. Not only will we save considerable money on utility expenses for a long time, we will immediately be able to provide our students, staff, and ice skaters the comfort and security of more reliable energy systems.”

Ameresco, an energy service company based in Framingham, conducted an energy audit of Methuen — both city and school buildings — and created a list of upgrades to reduce the energy costs of the buildings. A contract would require Methuen to come up with $3.5 million, likely through bonds, to pay for the services and materials.

Officials from Ameresco and from energy consulting company Peregrine Energy Group told councilors and School Committee members at a joint meeting in March that the borrowing would be paid for using savings from reduced energy spending and would not impact the tax rate.

Ameresco would complete all the projects over about 18 months.

While several councilors seemed agreeable of the idea, they were hesitant to fully support the idea until a contract was drawn up.

Mayor Stephen Zanni said he is at work on a contract and plans to request a special meeting of the City Council next month to review the proposal and possibly vote on approval.

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