2008-11-26 / Front Page

Town goes green on energy source

Power to come from hydroelectric sources in Maine
By Sam Bari

The Jamestown Town Council agreed Monday evening to purchase 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources.

The Town Council had agreed previously to a contract from the Rhode Island Energy Aggregation Program (RIEAP) administered by the RI League of Cities and Towns. The league had negotiated a three-year contract to supply electricity to local government at the negotiated rate of 9.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

The agreement required the town to take one of four proposed agreements required for participation in RIEAP. According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, if the town chose not purchase any renewable energy options the price per kilowatt hour would be the negotiated 9.4 cents.

"We also had three options to purchase renewable energy cred- its at an additional expense. We could choose from getting our energy from hydroelectric sources, which was the least expensive, or from getting renewable energy from resources throughout the United States. The third option, and the most expensive, was to get renewable resources exclusively from New England providers," Keiser said.

Keiser said that choosing the hydroelectric option was the best of the three renewable energy options for the town. It was the least expensive and the hydro power would be coming from Maine, so it was still a New England resource.

The cost of purchasing 50 percent of town energy from Maine Hydroelectric, a renewable energy source, would cost .0015 cents per kwh hour or $2,250, which would be paid from the general fund for town and school energy, and $1,041 that would come from town water and sewer funds.

If the town had chosen not to participate in the cooperative, Jamestown could have remained with electricity provided by National Grid. Due to declining fuel prices, the National Grid had recently proposed a "standard offer" price of 9.5 cents per hour, down from the 12.4 cent kwh rate approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Keiser said there was a twofold benefit to the council's decision to participate in the proposed agreement. He said that participation established a stable and predictable cost of power for three years and, under PUC regulations, by choosing to negotiate a separate price agreement directly with energy suppliers, cities and towns have opted out of the "standard offer" pricing structure.

After weighing the options, the council voted 3-0 to enter into the contract agreement contingent on 50 percent of town energy coming from renewable sources. Two council members, Julio DiGiando and William Kelly, were not at the meeting.

The council also voted 3-0 to authorize Keiser to sign the documents concerning the energy agreement on the town's behalf.

Noise ordinance

Several island residents testifi ed during the open forum about excessive noise resulting from construction activities. They complained about glare from lights late at night and early morning and truck traffic in the neighborhood seven days a week.

The residents said ordinances or regulations were needed to govern these issues. The town administrator said that neither town officials nor police had legal authority to intervene or terminate the activities that the residents claimed threatened their rights to public peace and safety.

Consequently, the Town Council determined that regulations are needed to protect island residents and agreed to draft amendments to the Town Code of Ordinances addressing the issues in question.

The council will conduct a public hearing on Monday, Dec. 15, during its regular meeting at Town Hall to discuss the proposed amendments.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero worked with Keiser to draft an ordinance that limited the time that construction or demolition work could take place. The proposed anti-noise ordinance suggested that construction and demolition work would be prohibited Monday through Friday, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. the following day; Saturday, from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following day and Sunday, from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following day. Additionally, the same activities would be prohibited on all federal and state holidays.

Council member Bob Sutton suggested that all work of that nature be prohibited on Sunday. He also asked if homeowner activities could be exempted from the ordinance. "I don't want to stop some homeowner from repairing his house just because it's Sunday," Sutton said. He implied that the ordinance should apply to professional crews constructing houses on Sundays and disrupting the neighborhood.

Councilor Barbara Szepatowski said that she thought raising the fines would be effective. "We do have noise ordinances, they just aren't effective," she said. "The fines are minimal."

Ruggiero said that he would work with Keiser and the Council to draft appropriate ordinances that would address those issues.

Downtown improvement program

Keiser reported to the council that the state is distributing the Jamestown Downtown Improvement Project Plans, specifications and estimate documents to the various Department of Transportation (DOT) sections and the Federal Highway Administration as a last step prior to bidding the project out for construction.

Keiser said that the town is awaiting an amended agreement with the RIDOT that combines $500,000 from phase I with $690,000 allocated for phase II. He said that as soon as those funds are in place, the town will begin survey and in-house design of phase II.

Construction on the project could begin as soon as spring of 2009, Keiser said. The project will be constructed in a spring/fall or fall/spring construction schedule that will best accommodate merchant's needs, he added.

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