BERLIN — The city will be issuing a request for proposals for municipal solar projects on as many as five different sites on public land.
Working with Berlin Water Works, City Manager James Wheeler said the top site is the Brown Farm Site at 85 East Milan Road. Wheeler said the site has two relatively large power users in the wastewater pumping station and the Brown Farm well. He said the city does not use the well as a water supply because of the high cost of power compared to the gravity-fed Ammonoosuc water treatment facility. The city owns about seven acres there that is in a wellhead protection area.
Other potential sites include two closed landfills — the East Milan landfill where the city owns 10-14 acres and the Cates Hill landfill site where there are 7 acres. Also added were the Berlin Airport and the Berlin school system.
Wheeler recommended putting all the sites in the request and seeing what the city gets back for proposals. The draft request presented to the council asked for figures on financing the project through a power purchase agreement or the city owning it outright.
The town of Brentwood installed a ground-mounted solar array that provides almost all of municipal electricity needs. The town paid no money up front to get the solar installed and instead makes payments for the energy at lower than utility rates.
In other business:
• The council held a first reading of a resolution authorizing the lease purchase of a new 2018 Prinoth sidewalk tractor. With a plow, snow blower, sander and asphalt cold planer attachments, the tractor will cost $181,399. With a down payment of $44,479 and a $9,000 trade-in for a 2007 tractor, the city will finance $127,920 with annual payments of just over $28,000. The down payment will come from existing capital appropriations and replacement funds. A public hearing will be held on the proposal at the Feb. 18 meeting. The city is currently renting the sidewalk tractor with the understanding that the rental payment will count as part of the down payment.
• Public Works Director Eric Grenier reported that the city’s two snow blowers broke down, hampering efforts to clean the downtown. One is expected to be back in service this week.
• Wheeler reported seven firms submitted proposals to perform an economic development and marketing strategy for the city. The Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority has agreed to pay up to $40,000 for a strategy aimed at helping the city more from traditional manufacturing to a new model of growth. Wheeler said a subcommittee from BIDPA along with city staff are reviewing the proposals and selecting ones to interview. He called it an exciting project for the city.
• The city manager said the city is advertising for proposals to do a comprehensive assessment of the city’s library building. The N.H. Preservation Alliance is providing $4,500 for the assessment and the city has $10,000 appropriated. Proposals are due Feb. 22. Built in 1903, the Berlin Library was funded by a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Endowment Fund.
• The city clerk’s office no longer closes from noon to 1 p.m., making it convenient for residents to come in during their lunchtime. Wheeler said the staff volunteered to stagger their lunch hour to serve the public better.