Otis special town meeting vote could help town reap windfall

Otis is a townwide vote away from using wind-generated electricity to power all its municipal buildings.

OTIS — Otis is a townwide vote away from using wind-generated electricity to power all its municipal buildings.

Special Town Meeting voters Tuesday night overwhelming supported borrowing $6.4 million for the land acquisition, design and construction of a wind turbine on land off Algerie Road. The 82 to 13 margin of victory far exceeded the two-thirds majority necessary for approval.

Registered voters have the final say on Sept. 8 when they head to the polls from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to decide if the loan should be excluded from the provisions of Proposition 2 ½. The special election will be held at the Otis Town Hall.

If approved by voters next month, the single wind turbine could be operational a year from now, according to town officials.

The green energy project is expected to generate 6.2 million kilowatts of electricity each year, with the town needing only 350,000 kilowatts to run town-owned facilities. The rest of the electricity would be sold off to another government entity.

"This will be beneficial to all town departments and the residents of the town," said Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Roberta Sarnecki, following the special town meeting vote.

"The idea is to provide a more self-sufficient community that is energy independent," added Larry Gould, chairman of the Otis Energy Committee.

Gould conducted an hour-long informational meeting for Otis residents prior to the special town meeting vote.

He outlined how the $6.4 million financing would be in the form of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, with the federal government covering 70 percent of the estimated 4.7 percent interest. Based on that figure, Otis taxpayers would pay close to 1.4 percent interest on the bonds.

Gould noted the interest rate could change by the time the bonds are floated in November.

Otis officials are currently negotiating with the landowner of the proposed site with an elevation between 1,500 and 1,600 feet.

The town is spending $480,000 in state energy grants to pay for the feasibility and acoustic studies for the project. The remaining funds are covering preliminary design work.

The wind turbine will produce cheaper electricity than Otis currently gets from Eversource, the utility servicing the town and it will be a money maker too.

Gould said the town plans to sell excess electricity to the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaboration in the Springfield area.

"It's an opportunity to raise revenue without raising taxes — how often does that happen?" he said.

If built, the proposed municipal wind turbine would be the second such project to come online in Otis since 2009. In June of that year, Williams Stone Co. activated its wind turbine, which cost the family owned business $1.7 million.

Williams Stone provides granite curbing for highway construction and site development, as well as steps, benches, posts and other granite landscaping products for most of the Northeast, according to the company's website.

Source: http://www.berkshireeagle.c...

AUG 9 2015
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