NORTH ANDOVER — The Finance Committee voted unanimously last night to support spending $4,049,000 for energy conservation measures at schools and other town-owned buildings.
The annual Town Meeting in May will have the final word on whether the town goes ahead with the project, which has been strongly advocated by Town Manager Andrew Maylor, the selectmen and school officials.
If Town Meeting approves, the town will borrow the money to pay for the improvements, probably over 15 years, Maylor said. The savings from the energy conservation measures, including more efficient heating equipment and lighting as well as an energy management system, will actually pay for the undertaking, Maylor said.
The work will be performed by Ameresco, a Framingham energy services company. The town has not entered into a contract with Ameresco. That won’t happen unless the Town Meeting approves the bonding request.
Finance Committee Chairman Alan LeBovidge, who boasts considerable experience in the private sector financial world, said he has a “problem with the way the municipal budget works.”
The town is being asked to appropriate the money for the project — yet there is no contract with hard numbers, he noted. Finance Committee member Michelle Nadeau said by voting to support the energy conservation project, the board was “affirming our support for the selectmen” to negotiate a sound agreement with Ameresco.
A bonding article requires the backing of two-thirds of the voters at Town Meeting to pass. The June 12 annual Town Meeting defeated a proposal to borrow $4.3 million for energy-saving improvements.
The selectmen and School Committee backed the project at that time, but the Finance Committee was opposed.
Maylor said he and other officials whittled the proposal down to $4,049,000 by eliminating some lighting improvements.
The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission arranged to have Ameresco provide its services to area communities if they wish to use them.