Framingham FinCom spars over contract for photo voltaic panels at McAuliffe Library department

FRAMINGHAM – Members of the Finance Committee argued Tuesday over a possible contract to install solar panels on the roof of the Christa McAuliffe Library branch.

After more than three hours of discussion, which was at times controversial, the committee members voted to call on the city council to receive competing proposals to ensure that the proposed contract with Solect Energy of Hopkinton was the best deal for the city.

Committee members Janet Leombruno, Michael Cannon, and George King supported competing proposals, while Adam Steiner and Cesar Stewart-Morales opposed it.

City officials worked with Solect Energy through the PowerOptions program, an energy purchasing consortium that runs a solar program available to local authorities to sign a contract to install a solar panel on the library branch.

Under the proposed deal with Solect Energy, the city would save more than $ 100,000 at no upfront cost over the term of the 20-year contract when it signs a power purchase agreement, or approximately $ 63,000 if the city chooses to purchase it of the system is decisive.

“There is overwhelming support for this contract,” said Stewart-Morales, councilor for District 2. “… it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Stewart-Morales moved to refer the contract back to the entire city council, but it was rejected 3-2.

Cannon, councilor for District 4, said the city was relying on a solar provider selected by a third party in 2015 and asked the administration to get suggestions from other solar companies to see if there was a better deal and more savings gives. Framingham could get a better deal with more vendors involved, he said.

“We don’t even shop a little,” said Cannon, who said the request was very reasonable.

Cannon expressed concerns that the city could potentially decide five years after the 20-year contract commences that a better option is available and will be charged with an early termination fee of more than $ 200,000.

King, the city council president, agreed, saying the city should take the time to make sure it is getting the best contact.

“We just want comfort and confidence that the deal is a good deal for Framingham,” he said. “… people ask about options instead of taking one thing.”

Framingham’s chief operating officer, Thatcher Kezer, is concerned that seeking other suggestions could harm the city’s relationship with Solect Energy for potential future projects and is not good business practice. He noted that the city had worked with the consortium to get the best deal for Framingham.

Kezer anticipates it will take more than a couple of weeks for all solar companies to receive full proposals.

Stewart-Morales called the effort to get additional suggestions a waste of time, saying the contract on the table was the best deal.

“I just want to mention that all five of us know this is a waste of time,” he said. “… Everyone who works in the industry, works in this area, who has reviewed this project, tells us that this is the right project, that this is the best project. That’s why we have it on our desk right now. “

The members of the Finance Committee will continue their discussions next month.

Jeff Malachowski can be reached at 508-490-7466 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JmalachowskiMW.

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