Solar Farm Application with PBS, Selectboard Told
At the Northfield Selectboard meeting last week, Brothers William Veve and Victor Veve who are the owner-operators of VWSD, a solar development company based in Jericho, appeared before the board to discuss their project that is proposed for Bull Run.
Their application now is before the Public Service Board (PSB) and they have met with our Electric Utility Commission to allay any local concerns. The project would produce energy as well as net-metering and renewable energy credits that would be shared with the municipality.
They noted that the Bull Run site is shielded from public view and they plan to hire local for any work to be done there.
They argued that the municipality’s tax base would be increased due to the improvements done to the site, which would include a three-phase power line extension.
The project has a projected twenty (20) year lifespan and there is no financial risk to the municipality, William Veve said. He asked that the Select Board allow the project to proceed to the next level by having the proposed agreement between VWSD and Northfield reviewed by the municipality’s attorney.
Selectman Lynn Doney asked how this project would affect local ratepayers.
William Veve said the major benefit would be to allow the Northfield Electric Department (NED) to meet PSB net-metering and renewable energy requirements.
Mr. Fitzhugh, who serves as Chair of Northfield’s Electric Utility Commission, confirmed the PSB will require electric utilities to obtain ninety percent of their power supply from renewable sources by 2050. He said that this project will help NED achieve this without any rate increases.
Selectman Nate Freeman said that he appreciates that the Veve brothers have personally kept the Select Board and Northfield residents aware of these developments even though they are not legally required to do so.
Selectman Julie Goodrich asked if VWSD would own the Bull Run property.
William Veve said they plan to purchase the property once the project has PSB approval.
Ruth Ruttenberg appeared before the board as asked that the Selectboard reconsider its decision at its previous regular meeting not to participate in a Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation program that would “inventory roadside vegetation and development recommendations for long-term resilience of its roadside vegetation to manage stormwater runoff for surface water protection.”
Ms. Ruttenberg said there would be no cost to the municipality to take part in this program and any subsequent recommendations would not be binding on the community. She noted that the information generated would be invaluable and could save the municipality money in the long run.
She said that she brought up this program on behalf of the Conservation Commission at this year’s Town Meeting and it was her impression that those present were very receptive to this opportunity.
Chair Kenny Goslant said that he believes Northfield’s situation is very different from the other municipalities being asked to participate in this program. Our roadside clearance work has been sorely neglected for several years and there is a lot of catchup work to do. He said that he believes these problem areas have been well identified and there is no need for state assistance.
Ms. Ruttenberg said that she feels that matters such as tree cutting is a separate issue. The proposed state program would create an inventory and identify areas where there might be erosion problems should vegetation be removed. Since the program would be at no cost, Ms. Ruttenberg does not understand why the Select Board is not interested. Participation also would make Northfield eligible for grant funds provided for backroads work, she noted.
Selectman Freeman said that he does favor participating in this program since it would be at no cost to the municipality, would create needed information and would facilitate future planning.
Selectman Doney, on the other hand, said that he would prefer to stay out of this state program and focus instead on the plans being generated locally to handle backroads maintenance. Despite the assurances provided, he said he remains concerned that once the state gets involved there will be interference in local plans to clear roadside trees. Selectman Goodrich said she does not oppose the state program in general but sees no real need for it at this time. Should this need be made clearer in the future, she might reconsider her position.
Chair Goslant summarized that the Selectboard made a conscious decision to move forward on its backroads maintenance policy and therefore is not interested in participating in this state program.
Manager Schulz said the Water Street park project plans now are complete and the construction phase will be put out to bid soon. He noted that the State has forwarded a Grant Agreement for Selectboard approval as well as a Grant Agreement Resolution that designates Michele Braun as the person with overall administrative responsibility for the grant and Manager Schulz the authorized official able to execute documents.
He said that he has worked with Ms. Braun to ensure that all the grant conditions are acceptable. Once the project bids have been received, they will be forwarded to the Selectboard with a recommendation. The current timetable is to award the bid by early June 2017 with construction beginning in late June/early July.
The expected completion date is early August 2017.
Selectman Doney asked if this project would entail any direct costs to Northfield. Manager Schulz said the municipality has been asked to install about 160’ of stormwater pipe but this work would have to be done anyway. There also would be some minor maintenance costs associated with the natural park such as mowing the walking paths.
The board approved the grant agreement.
Chair Goslant saw that another structure was being considered for the FEMA buyout program that compensated property owners for houses substantially damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
He wondered when this program would ever end as he believes that some later buyout structures were razed for no good reason.
Manager Schulz said the process for the one property now under consideration had stalled. He added that the Selectboard can pull the plug on the program at any time.
Chair Goslant noted with every structure torn down, the Town’ Grand List amount decreases.
Manager Schulz will contact the individuals involved with the most recent buyout to see what’s holding things up. He also will inform FEMA that any additional applications will need to go first through the Selectboard.