Town committee pursuing solar panel system for Thompson buildings

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Aug. 5, 2013

Thompson's Solar Advisory Committee held a special meeting on Aug. 2. Its members were drawing up a Request for Proposal package for the installation of photovoltaic system on five town properties. Chair Alvan Hill, Kathleen Hebert and Kerstin Forrester spent more than two hours hammering out language to use in the proposal. The final draft will head to the Board of Selectmen for approval when it's complete.

The five properties in question are the town garage, high school, waste water treatment plant, library and community room, and the TEEG building on Thatcher Road.

The installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems is aimed at saving taxpayers money on town electric costs over the long run, according to Hill. He said the project would be environmentally as well as economically beneficial because it would increase the town's reliance on renewable energy resources. “When this project is successful, other cost saving projects may follow, which we hope will further reduce Thompson’s dependency on non-renewable energy sources,” Hill said.

The committee hopes to have a draft finalized to present to town selectmen by Aug. 20. If they complete it and the selectmen approve it, a pre-proposal conference could be slated for late September, and submissions could be reviewed as early as mid-October. The three members were unanimous in emphasizing the importance of getting a quality product finished before committing to dates.

The 20-plus-page document spells out the town's intentions, proposal instructions and indemnification requirements. Given the complexity of the task, it may be sent to the town's attorney for review. Forrester wants to make sure that critical information about key management team members is collected when proposals are submitted. That was a shortcoming when a request for qualifications was sent out last year.

Sixteen companies responded to that RFQ in January 2013. Out of that number, representatives from three companies were brought in for interviews. The company chosen as the top contender for the project proved to be operating out of a Holiday Inn in Massachusetts. Civil actions had been lodged against it for failure to pay subcontractors. It wasn't registered to do business in the state of Connecticut, and employee counts from documents filed in Massachusetts didn't agree with the numbers submitted with the RFQ.

Hill, Hebert and Forrester want to avoid a repeat of that scenario. Working with Town Planner Mary Ann Chinatti, the draft has undergone several revisions. The language requires specific contractor team information, system and monitoring descriptions, financial statements, warranties, annual maintenance agreements and cost proposals, and including possible power purchase agreements.

“How you sell it to town residents is very important,” said Forrester. “There is definitely a cost savings that goes with this. But we're also doing the right thing for the environment.”

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