Revote resurrects Montpelier biomass project

By Anna Simet | August 30, 2012

During a special meeting on Aug. 29, the Montpelier, Vt., city council voted once again on the fate of a district heating project that would replace an old state-owned plant with a new biomass plant, reversing its week-old decision to axe the project.

The council originally voted to move forward with the project in June of 2011, but in an Aug. 22 vote of 4-2 rescinded its plans, citing uncertainty of financial risks. Mayor John Hollar called the special meeting, asking councilors to approve the project with changes intended to address concerns raised by councilors who voted down the project.

Under the revised agreement, the city will commit to building the first phase of the distribution system, and city and state expects that funding will allow for the completion of all other phases of the project. The final determination of project size will be made after construction bids are received in November. 

The revised agreement also provides that certain charges to the state will be phased in based on actual usage by city customers, replacing an earlier agreement that provided for the payment of a fixed annual charge by the city regardless of the amount of city heat usage. Now the state will have the ability to use any capacity that is not purchased by the city, after a reasonable period of time.

Now that the project is again approved, the state will move forward with ordering two 600 horsepower boilers, and the city will begin its bid process.

“This is a very positive outcome for the city,” said Mayor John Hollar. “This agreement reduces the city’s risk in committing to the project before we receive construction bids. But it also preserves our ability to build the full district heat system as expected.”

The existing facility has heated the state government complex for more than 20 years and the new project will also include an expansion of the distribution system to allow heat delivery to city government buildings, as well as some schools and other downtown structures.