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February 15, 2013

School system eyes $3.5 million in energy improvements

METHUEN — A dozen municipal and school buildings would go green, triggering $300,000 in annual savings, under an energy services contract proposal before the City Council.

If approved, the city would borrow about $3.5 million for 55 energy-efficiency improvements to be completed over 18 months. The money would then be recouped through future utility budget savings estimated at $300,000 annually over the next 15 years.

“It’s a good project,” Mayor Stephen Zanni told the City Council earlier this month. “It’s something that will save the city a lot of money.”

City councilors have agreed to hold a workshop on the proposal in the coming weeks. To take on all the projects at once, the city would enter into an energy management services contract with Ameresco.

The Framingham-based company was selected by the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission and has performed similar work for Logan International Airport and the cities of Lowell and Newburyport.

“It’s a great deal,” said Methuen Community Development Director Bill Buckley. “It’s an opportunity to do energy enhancements to our municipal and school buildings without impacting our municipal budget or the tax rate.”

Buckley said the agreement with Ameresco will guarantee that the city recoups the money it borrows. The company will oversee the projects, relieving city employees of the time-consuming tasks of designing, bidding and managing them.

“It allows the city to do more in a short time frame,” said Buckley. “It would take a long time for us to finish 55 separate projects. Ameresco has the resources.”

If the agreement is approved, Buckley said he hopes the projects will begin sometime in 2013.

Ameresco has performed detailed energy audits at a dozen public facilities in Methuen, including City Hall; the Quinn building — which is home to the Police and School departments; the Central Fire Station; water treatment plant; three pump stations; the Marsh, Comprehensive, Tenney and Timony grammar schools; and the Methuen High School ice rink.

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