Stafford residents approve sewer station upgrade, energy improvements

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Jul. 17, 2013
Peter Kovaleski (left), a member of the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee, is pictured with Beth DaDalt, executive assistant to the first selectman, and Board of Finance Chair Ed Muska. Kovaleski explained the potential savings the town would see by purchasing and installing energy conservation improvements. Photo by Annie Gentile.
Peter Kovaleski (left), a member of the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee, is pictured with Beth DaDalt, executive assistant to the first selectman, and Board of Finance Chair Ed Muska. Kovaleski explained the potential savings the town would see by purchasing and installing energy conservation improvements. Photo by Annie Gentile.

At a special town meeting at the Stafford Community Center on Wednesday, July 10, Stafford residents approved several resolutions to upgrade the town’s sanitary sewer system and to purchase and install energy improvements in town and school buildings.

Residents voted in favor of the town appropriating $1.37 million to upgrade the Orcuttville Road and Lake Shore Boulevard pump stations. Rick Hartenstein, supervisor of the Water Pollution Control Authority, said the WPCA had hired the Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting, engineering and construction firm CDM-Smith in 2011 as a follow-up to the facilities plan that was conducted in 2009. The firm recommended complete replacement of the two pump stations, as they were both built in 1979 and had become outdated. A second engineering firm made similar recommendations.

Residents also voted to approve appropriating $675,000 for two of three phases of an inflow and infiltration analysis for the sewer system. WPCA business manager Jane LaMorte explained that the sewer system is seeing a significant amount of infiltration from holes, cracks and joint failures in sewer pipes and inflow from roof and foundation drains, illegal sump pump connections and other avenues into the sewer system. “We don’t want to be treating plain water,” LaMorte explained, since that would be a costly and unnecessary expense.

Phase I of the study, LaMorte said, will involve inventorying and collecting data on the town’s existing sewer system, developing a GIS sewer map and monitoring flows. Phase II will involve investigating areas that have been identified to have excessive inflow and infiltration to find the sources of the problem. Presently there is a Clean Water Fund grant for the two phases that would cover 55 percent of the costs. By doing the analysis now, LaMorte said it will put the town in a good position to do the construction phase down the road, should future grant money become available.

The greatest portion of the evening’s discussion, however, involved a resolution to bond for $2.082 million to purchase and install energy improvements in town and school facilities, purchase a boiler for Stafford Middle School, and to cover related financing costs for the projects.

Town engineer and building official Dennis Milanovich said the town had engaged Honeywell, an energy service company, to perform an investment-grade audit of school and municipal buildings in town and evaluate their electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems to find energy savings. Milanovich said Honeywell provided a quote for $1,604,555 to make the improvements, and the town has selected a third-party company, Celtic Energy, to oversee Honeywell’s work and monitor the energy savings. Honeywell has projected first-year energy savings to be $146,485 and to increase each year, resulting in a payback period of approximately 12 years. Further, the savings are guaranteed by Honeywell, or, according to their Performance Contract, they will be required to write the town a check for the difference.

“I expect Honeywell has been conservative in their energy saving estimates, and we could be looking at savings that are much larger. They don’t want to be in the business of writing checks,” said Milanovich. He added that while the town would need to bond for the costs of the work, the yearly savings on energy costs would cover the cost of financing, so that the cost to taxpayers would be a net zero, and the town would continue to reap savings every year beyond the terms of the loan. “These [energy savings contracts] are remarkably intelligent ways to do things, using savings in energy to pay for borrowing, and it’s to everyone’s advantage.  It’s sauce for the goose,” he said.

“We’ve been researching this for about three-plus years and interviewed six companies before picking Honeywell,” said Leonard “Butch” Clark, co-chair of the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee. “This is a very good program. I hope everyone understands that,” he said. He hinted at additional energy saving projects in the pipeline.

After a number of questions from the audience, a vote was taken with no objections to the resolution.

“I think this is a great idea,” said Finance Committee Chair Ed Muska. “This is a state energy program that at least 20 other towns are doing. Anything you can do to save on energy costs is worthwhile,” he said.


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