WESTPORT – The contractor for the Town Hall wind turbine said Friday he does not plan to sign the contract for the project because the town would pay him a portion of the cost over 13 years, rather than immediately.
About three-fourths of the cost would be covered by a Massachusetts Technology Collaborative grant, but the remaining $18,400 would be paid in equal installments over 13 years, the contract says. The contract was signed by selectmen Monday and mailed to Alternate Energy, the contracting firm, for approval.
“I made a concession I didn’t need to make by guaranteeing the payback,” said Steve Pitney of Alternate Energy. “The town is going above and beyond that. The funds are there by Town Meeting, so I don’t see how they can tamper with that.”
The MTC grant requires that the contractor be paid in full, said senior project manager John Abe, though the agency would consider allowing an installment plan if both sides approve the contract. The town, Abe said, would need to pay Alternate Energy an amount at least equal to the MTC grant, expected to be $45,000, as a lump sum.
“It is designed to protect the consumer and the installer,” Abe said.
The contract also requires that Alternate Energy complete the turbine by Feb. 1 or face daily fines, and must pay the difference on an annual basis if the turbine does not produce 600 kilowatt hours of electricity a month. The 120-foot turbine is projected to produce about 732 kilowatt hours a month from its planned position behind Town Hall next to the Highway Department building.
Pitney said he was “surprised” that Westport town counsel approved the contract, which does not mention interest payments to the contractor.
Construction on the turbine was initially planned to begin about a month ago and be completed in mid-December. If the delay causes a reduction in the MTC grant, Pitney said, he would expect the town to make up the difference.
“This could have been done much sooner,” he said. “They have been looking for it to cost them nothing from day one and it is totally out of spirit of what they put out in the bid document. A lot of weird things that they are doing is questionable.
“In the original bid, they never asked for an installment plan with zero percent interest. I painstakingly explained how it worked, that I have to be paid in full.”
The contract has been signed by some members of the Board of Selectmen, and by town counsel and the town accountant. The MTC won’t consider the project until all parties have signed. The grant review process takes about three to four weeks.
The turbine wouldn’t get built without the MTC grant and it needs approval from the building inspector. If the turbine is not complete by Feb. 1, Pitney would have to pay $250 for each additional day until work is finished. Pitney said the work could be built by then as long as the MTC grant is approved and the project isn’t further delayed.
Pitney is expecting the turbine for Town Hall in a shipment this week but said, “I have many other customers. It’s not like it won’t get used.”
It took Pitney’s guarantee on the performance of the turbine to sway enough votes on the Board of Selectmen to sign the contract earlier this month. Before then, most selectmen appeared to disagree with the feasibility of the project.
Selectman Gary Mauk has said since the $63,400 cost (the town would be reimbursed $45,000 later by the MTC) was approved at Town Meeting in May that he would not support the turbine.
Alternate Energy, based in Plymouth, was the lowest of four bidders last spring for the project. Each contractor placed bids on turbines with heights of 100 and 120 feet, and with a monopole or lattice base. Alternate Energy’s bid for the 120-foot lattice turbine was chosen.
In July, the Board of Selectmen designated Alternate Energy as the contractor for the project. On Oct. 9, the board voted to sign the contract, and the contract was signed by most members of the board Oct. 22 before it was mailed to Alternate Energy for Pitney’s approval.
By Grant Welker
Herald News Staff Reporter
28 October 2007
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