SHIRLEY — At the Aug. 5 Special Town Meeting, the single warrant article will ask voters to consider borrowing $570,000 to initiate an energy-savings program and to enter into a performance contract to implement the program “under terms and conditions” the selectmen deem to be in the town’s best interests.
The article does not state the name of the company the Energy Committee tapped for the job, which is ABM. Nor does it provide details of the proposed 15-year contract that promises to pay for itself through guaranteed energy savings or note that borrowing to pay for it won’t call for increased taxes.
The Energy Committee filled in those gaps one more time Monday night.
At a sparsely-attended public forum — broadcast live on the town’s public access cable TV channel — the EC made a final pitch for the energy-saving program that has already been presented to the selectmen and Finance Committee, respectively, and which Town Meeting will be asked to approve next week.
Two ABM representatives outlined the program, with projected annual savings of $48,000 from improvements such as proposed upgrades, retrofits and new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment in seven town-owned buildings: Town Offices, Hazen Memorial Library, DPW and War Memorial buildings, police and fire stations and the Senior Center.
Armed with a $156,000 state grant the town received along with achieving Green Community status, the Energy Committee, established in 2011, has been developing plans to meet a grant-mandated 20 percent energy savings over five years.
With initiatives such as installation of “Idle Right” equipment in town police cruisers already in place, the EC has already made progress to fulfill that mission and aims to complete it via this program.
The program ABM is proposing promises 26 percent savings over current energy bills. If the envisioned savings don’t meet expectations spelled out in the contract and within the terms of the contract, the company promises to cut the town a check for the difference.
Carl Macoun said he hopes the plan pans out, but he wanted to know why townspeople should put their faith in such promises. “Why should we trust you?” he asked. “They painted a rosy picture of the school (Ayer-Shirley Regional School District) but it’s been a disaster,” he said. “Are there any pitfalls … what if the company goes out of business?”
ABM manager David O’Brien said that’s highly unlikely, pointing out that the company has been in business since 1901 and now employs over 100,000 people world-wide.
Besides, committee members said, the EC had expert advice from its consultant, the process has been “well vetted,” and the program is backed by the state.
“Performance contracting is a significant change in the way we’ve done business in town, but I think it’s a positive change,” treasurer Kevin Johnston concluded.