HUDSON – Common Council President Don Moore and Mayor William Hallenbeck both strongly defended the city’s new wind-energy agreement with Viridian Energy at Monday’s Common Council meeting. But others city officials raised questions about it.
At a press conference May 8, Hallenbeck announced Hudson would be switching to 100 percent locally produced wind energy in June, buying it through Viridian’s Pure Green program. He estimated this would save the city $40,000 a year.
On Saturday, Victor Mendolia, who has announced he’s running against Moore for council president, issued a blog post asserting that Viridian Energy’s parent company is bankrupt, that some have called Viridian a pyramid scheme and that “there is no way for the mayor to back up his claim of savings.”
Mendolia raised these points during the public comment period of the meeting, and asked why the plan was not brought before the council first, and why there had been no request for proposals.
“Viridian is not in bankruptcy, and their parent company is not,” Moore said. “The citation presented by you is for an Irish company.”
The parent company for the Viridian with which the city is contracting is in Bahrain, he said.
“I think it’s reckless of you to print (allegations) without doing your homework,” Moore said.
He cited figures illustrating that Viridian’s prices are less than National Grid’s.
“Why was an RFP (request for proposals) not done?” Mendolia shot back.
“This is a single purchase of services,” Moore said. “It doesn’t require an RFP.”
Alderman Nick Haddad, D-First Ward, said it might have been good to sit down and try to negotiate a better contract with National Grid.
“We have the latitude, given our consumption, to negotiate a very good number if we choose to do so,” he said.
There was also a proposal in January by Lotus Energy to put photovoltaic cells on the roof of the Consolidated Fire House.
Alderman John Friedman, D-Third Ward, asked about the status of that.
City Attorney Cheryl Roberts said it needs to go out to bid; she said she was awaiting replies to emails on what to do next.
Moore said Lotus told him an RFP may not be necessary.
“We’re very interested in solar capabilities,” said Mayor William Hallenbeck. “It lessens the need for energy. The cost savings with
Viridian was a no-brainer for us – $40,000 a year, $500,000 a decade. It will be even more so, once we put the solar panels on our
Minority Leader Ohrine Stewart, D-Second Ward, asked why she had to hear about the energy plan on the radio.
“Why didn’t they come before the council and present it to us?” she asked.
“It’s not a decision the council makes,” Moore said. “We’ll have someone come and present.”
“Now that it’s a done deal,” interjected Mendolia.
“This is a month-to-month deal,” Moore said. “It doesn’t have to beconsidered ‘done.’”
“The presentation you’re considering,” Hallenbeck said. “Clarify?”
“It’s for information,” Moore said.
After the meeting, Moore said the Viridian rates have been at the same level for six months and lower than National Grid since they started up, in 2011.
Former Assemblyman Patrick Manning is the Viridian representative who came to the city and sold them on the provider.
“We’re not tied to a long-term agreement,” Moore said. “That’s not the way deregulation works.”
Mendolia said Tuesday he was happy to hear the company is not in bankruptcy, as he had suggested on his blog.
“But the bigger issue is, why wasn’t it put before the council and the people to see and understand it?” he said. “Then the questions of solvency of the company and pyramid schemes could have easily been resolved. It just doesn’t look right – why not lay it out for the people?
“It goes against everything I believe in – open and transparent government,” Mendolia said. “Why was the city’s chief financial
officer in the dark about such a large financial transaction? The companies lure you in with a good rate, then the rates jack up. If no
one is staying on top, then we’re stuck with a higher rate. Since the treasurer wasn’t in on this, it doesn’t bode well.”
Halloran confirmed Wednesday that she was out of the loop on this initiative.
“Usually when they don’t ask me, it’s because they think they know what I’d say and they just don’t want my opinion,” she said. “On this one, I am in favor of the city moving forward on greener energy sources. But did the mayor look at other providers? I don’t know if they looked around for the most competitive price among resellers. The initiative is correct, but maybe they jumped too fast – it seems like it happened quickly.”
However, the treasurer said this is a good undertaking for a mayor to be involved in, and she didn’t feel he usurped any duties of her office.
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