Council Approves 20-Year Solar Agreement with Syncarphia in Contested Vote

In a contested 5-3 vote, the City Council approved a 20-year contract with Syncarphia Solar and Renewable Energy Massachusetts (REM) under a new state program that should save the City more than $250,000 annually on energy bills.

Though the matter had been before the Council several times already, many on the board felt they needed more time to peruse the full 46-page contract, which had only been provided to them that same day.

Councilor Fred Capone lambasted the Council for voting on the matter before reading the contract.

“I want to be clear; we’re rushing again,” he said. “The City Solicitor said she wasn’t actively engaged in (looking at this contract). We’re talking about 46 pages of an agreement we’ve never read and only got today. This rushing has got to stop. We get these things at the last minute and we don’t read them and rush them through and figure we’ll fix them later. I would never let a client of mine to sign something without reading it and that’s just what we’ve done here… I sure as heck am not going to vote for something that affects the City for 20 years without reading it.”

Councilor Michael McLaughlin also felt it was too quick.

“I didn’t want to vote ‘no’ on this, but to vote on it tonight without reading a 20-year contracted agreement would be irresponsible,” he said.

However, Councilor Wayne Matewsky felt that the group had already come to the Council four times, and time was of the essence because they were offering their limited program to other communities as well.

“I take offense to the assertion that I am not paying attention,” he said. “I am paying attention. You consider my vote unintelligent. I think that is wrong…This is the fourth time these people have been up here.”

Councilor Rosa DiFlorio said she trusted the City officials to lead the way.

“Just because we’re City Councilors doesn’t mean we’re experts on everything up here,” she said. “I trust the City Solicitor. That’s why we appointed her. We vote for the City Solicitor. I trust her experience and the experience of the DPW director. These people have been up here four times. At our meetings, one item goes four hours. Enough is enough.”

By law, the company wasn’t allowed to enter into any agreement under 20 years with the City, they explained to some councilors like Leo McKinnon who were wary of such a long term.

REM is a Massachusetts-based solar energy development company that has developed several large-scale operating solar projects in Massachusetts. Currently, they are developing 11 solar projects in central and western Massachusetts to deliver clean energy to National Grid, according to REM co-founder Brian Kopperl. Syncarphia would then sell those solar energy credits to municipalities and other large energy consumers at a fixed rate of a 1.5 cent discount per kilowatt hour over what National Grid charges.

This agreement would only affect the city’s municipal energy use, not private consumers.

Finance Director Eric Demas said they had several companies come to the City at first, but later found out that Everett was a very desirable municipality for solar energy credits. That’s because it’s one of only a few cities that never entered into an older net metering contract program that the state allowed some years ago. That meant that Everett had more solar energy credits to sell than most municipalities since none of their energy credits had been touched yet.

In finding that out, Demas said he and DPW Director Greg St. Louis were able to shop their program around and get a higher locked rate.

“We’re one of the only communities around without a net metering agreement in place,” said St. Louis. “We have a lot more available credits. When our electricity bills went sky high, we had to do something to combat those rising costs. This was a program I thought would work well for us and save us $5.5 million over 20 years.”

Demas said they reached out to other companies, and were able to finally secure a 1.5 cent locked rate that is variable. So, he said, no matter what the base rate is, Everett will be 1.5 cents below that rate for 20 years.

“We did reach out to other companies and had verbal interest from many of them,” he said. “We had offers of 0.7 cents, 0.8 cents and one cent. We figured out though that we had a lot of buying power and we wanted to maximize the buying power for the City. That’s when we started talking to them and got the 1.5 cent rate.”

After the 5-3 vote, Councilor Capone called for reconsideration. However, it did not prevail as it was put down by the same vote tally.

Those voting for the program included DiFlorio, Michael Marchese, Matewsky, Steve Simonelli, and Council President Peter Napolitano.

Voting against were Capone, McKinnon, and McLaughlin.

•WILL CHURCH STREET EVER BE DECIDED?

Councilor Fred Capone and President Napolitano – as well as the rest of the Council – called for the Church and Webster Street traffic island to come back to them after a meeting at the Traffic Commission last week.

After spending four years in trying to resolve the issue and come to an agreement on the matter, the Council and many neighbors did come to that agreement late last year. However, now the whole agreed-upon plan has changed.

Capone wanted to know why, as did many other councilors.

“It’s been four and a half years we’ve been working on this,” said Napolitano.

•MCLAUGHLIN CALLS FOR NATIONAL GRID TO TALK GAS LINES

Councilor Michael McLaughlin called on National Grid to visit the Council and talk about the safety of their gas lines in Everett. He said the Greater Boston area has one of the oldest gas infrastructure networks and that worries him.

“I think it would be best to take preventative measures right now,” he said. “As we saw in the Merrimack Valley, it can happen anywhere.”

•COUNCIL GIVES THUMBS UP TO BUS PROGRAMS

City Councilor Wayne Matewsky and others are giving thumbs up to the new innovations around the bus stops in Everett Square.

Matewsky said he thought the Flower Bomb last month was a lot of fun and drew some exciting positive publicity for the City.

“I say people stopping to get out of their cars to take pictures of it,” he said. “These bus stops are quickly become an important part of the Square.”

There was some discussion on the matter of the raised platforms that are being piloted at stops in the Square as well. While some have concerns about snow and ice on them, Matewksy and McLaughlin both said they really thought it was a good idea, particularly for the disabled community.

“I have seen it work well and I think it’s great,” he said. “I understand it’s the first in the state. I want to show my support for it. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs and they can fly right in and that’s a good thing for them.”

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