September 05, 2013WAKEFIELD — In June 2012 Wakefield selectmen were approached by Titan Energy with a proposal to save money on electricity by contracting with that firm.
Since deregulation electric billing has two parts: distribution cost and electricity cost. Distribution cost includes the costs of maintaining the poles, wires and other infrastructure to delivery electricity to the customer; the other part is for the cost of the electricity itself. Electric customers can now choose a different supplier for the electricity than the company delivering the electricity to their home or business.
At the time of the Titan Energy proposal, the town was not sure it could take advantage of it because of the terms of its contract with PSNH. Since then Town Administrator Teresa Williams learned that a separate electricity supply agreement was possible, and by contacting other New Hampshire Municipal Association members she developed a list of nine brokers who put electric supply agreements together. The broker is paid by the electric company, not the town, and so far she has learned that prices change daily and that longer term agreement are better.
One broker was present in the audience, Lute Wallem from Quest Energy Solutions in Lincoln. He said several school districts and towns in his area have three-year energy contracts and that Lincoln itself is saving $15,000 a year on electricity. He noted that television ads are offering only six-month agreements.
Recently PSNH got a rate increase to 9.2¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh). But the Public Utilities Commission thought that PSNH was trying to recover its investment in a scrubber for its Bow plant too quickly and the rate was lowered to 8.62¢ per kWh. Suppliers like North American Power jumped in with offers at much lower rates, but now that the PSNH rate is lower, the difference is not significant. PSNH covers two-thirds of the state, including Wakefield, though PSNH does not do long-term contracts.
Selectman Chair Ken Paul thanked Wallin for his presentation but moved to table the discussion of buying electricity separately until other brokers are heard from.
PSNH itself was heard from earlier in the Aug. 28 meeting in the person of Russell Hunt, who made a presentation on the Commercial Heating Equipment Rebate Program, a new program launched in April that offers rebates for upgraded heating and cooling equipment installed after July 1st on a first come, first served basis until available funding runs out. A bar chart of available funds can be found online at www.nhsaves.com.
The equipment can be part of a new or retrofit installation, and while PSNH is the electric distributor for Wakefield, the same program is available for customers of Liberty Utilities, N.H. Electric Co-op and Unitil.
In July the town replaced the boiler at the Greater Wakefield Resource Center, and that replacement qualified for a rebate of $4,200.25.
Program forms can be found a www.psnh.com/for-my-business.aspx. Forms are also available by calling Hunt at 634-2523 or emailing email@example.com. Rebates range from $25 for a seven-day programmable thermostat to $10,000 for a boiler rated at 1,701-2,000 MBH (thousand BTUs per hour).
Proposed chipper purchase
The board discussed Road Agent Fred Clough's request to purchase a used brush chipper from Longmeadow Hardware for $8,500. Longmeadow has been renting chippers but is now getting out of that business.
Paul questions how often the chipper was rented now, noting that a 10 days a year it would take five years to pay for it at $175 a day.
Williams said according to the state that the Trustees of Trust Funds could approve the purchase from the heavy equipment capital reserve. Trustee Bruce Rich was present and said he will convene a meeting to discuss the proposal.
The board received an estimate of $880,000 to repair the Maple Street bridge in Union. See separate story on this topic.
Selectmen reviewed a letter from Jackie Keating relating two examples of why she is proud to live in Wakefield: Road Agent Fred Clough's prompt repair of Mountain View Drive and a stranger met at the transfer station who provided gladioluses needed for an altar.
Also reviewed was a letter from Patricia and John Kuech recommending that Parks and Recreation Department acquire a small van to bring people to some events rather than using a school bus.
Granite United Way sent a report on energy conservation efforts in the state. Paul said that Wakefield should consider setting up its own energy committee.
Selectman Connie Twombley reported that Wakefield Heritage Day went well and that the Heritage Commission removed the bellow from the grammar school and mounted it in the Freight House in Union. The Grange Hall renovation as a stagecoach museum is also coming along well.
Selectman Charlie Edwards, who spoke at Heritage Day, said he was pleased to discover the town had its own song, the Wakefield Hymn.
He said police reported an upsurge in drug violations and property crimes this summer. Residents can call the police department to sign up for property checks during the winter.
The highway department is mowing and cutting brush and trees, putting calcium down on gravel roads and fixing culverts on Witchtrot Road.
Paul noted that the 2014 budget process will begin shortly.
At Twombley's suggestion, the board agreed to send a letter of appreciation to Toni Bodah for her good work. Bodah completed 20 years of service to the town on July 2.
In her report Williams reported that all 16 tax-deeded properties were sold at the auction conducted by Rick Sager, raising approximately $187,000. Two residents had questioned whether giving Sager the exclusive on conducting the auction was prudent or cost-effective. Paul responded to both questioners that the object of the auction was to get the properties back on the tax rolls.
In response to a question raised by selectmen, she said county vehicles parked at the public safety building are covered by county insurance.
She said she had been in touch with attorney Kate Miller about the Time Warner Cable contract and expects to get a report by the end of the week.
The new town website is up at www.wakefieldnh.com. Williams said it has been in the works for three months and that four people now keep it updated. Residents can "Subscribe to E-News" on the Home page and be sent agendas and minutes of town meetings as well as a newsletter.
Selectmen agreed to pay the $360 cost of pumping the septic tank at the Greater Wakefield Resource Center but said in the future the town should be asked before the work is done.
The board discussed a request by Wakefield-Brookfield Rails to Trails to make a path from where blocks have been placed at Turntable Park to block vehicular traffic to the section of rails where work is being done. In the end the request was tabled pending receipt of a plan of the work proposed.
Selectmen voted to allow Road Agent Clough to choose his preferred salt vendor after two bids came in at the same price.
The board agreed to hold a separate meeting on Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. to discuss the results of an employee survey and potential changes to employee benefits and policies. A total of 15 replies to the survey have been received so far.
Selectmen approved paying Building Inspector David Stephen $30 a month to use his own cellphone rather than having the town supply one to him.
The board discussed various ways to deal with what Williams described as wasted space in the selectmen's office and the need for additional record storage. A range of options was covered but no conclusions were reached.
Selectmen approved renewing the CAI Technologies GIS services maintenance agreement for $500.
The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.