Get it done, City Council
What happened at the Montpelier City Council meeting Aug. 22?
In my opinion, the council’s four negative votes were less about facts or analysis in the city manager’s updated presentation, or about goals, engineering, financing or economics of the project, and more about other critical, implied questions. “Is the state a reliable and trustworthy partner?” “Are the non-city property owners who have expressed interest in connecting to the system firmly committed?”
The doubting four councilors should reconsider their votes so the council can vote again and approve the motion to have the city manager proceed with this project because:
— The city has a contract with the state that includes extensive definition and assignment of responsibilities, as well as a process for resolving uncertainties and future unexpected events in a manner that meets the goals of the agreement and best long-term interest of the voters.
— Eight property owners on the proposed route for the district energy pipeline have signed on, based on estimated costs and conditions. One of these property owners testified at the meeting that this is the best way to invest in his buildings. The $150,000 upfront payment is strong assurance from another interested property owner. They are making decisions based on current, reasonable cost estimates and their confidence that the city will work with them fairly to finalize these agreements in a manner that meets project goals and their mutual interests.
— For over 10 years, this project has been studied, designed, analyzed and improved by the qualified, professional, independent consultants working with city staff. It is a complex, innovative project with risks that have been minimized to a manageable level and with adequate contingencies built in. Comparable systems in Middlebury, Minneapolis and other cities have experienced 0 percent failure rates.
— Voters have expressed our strong support for the district energy heat project in four separate votes.
So, gentlemen of the council, please resolve your issues with the state and achieve a working relationship that recognizes our shared interests and mutual benefits. Communicate with the eight property owners who are interested in connecting to the system, possibly more, assuring them that the project is sound and they can trust that the city’s final letters of agreement will be consistent with the estimated costs they recently received. Follow through on your responsibility to listen to Montpelier voters and taxpayers. We want you to authorize the city manager to move forward on this unique opportunity to build a better heating system in collaboration with the state, stabilizing fuel costs, promoting economic development, and benefiting the city in 2013 and long into the future.
Nancy Sherman, of Montpelier, is a former member of the City Council.