Montpelier gives green light to city, state biomass plant - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Montpelier gives green light to city, state biomass plant

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Montpelier officials reverse course one week after rejecting plans to build a new biomass plant.

With just a few slight tweask, city councilors voted Wednesday night to pursue the new 20-million dollar heating plant in conjunction with the state. Most call the agreement a win-win.

After a brief one-issue special meeting, Montpelier's city council voted to build the new, larger and greener facility. The plant will replace an out-of-date facility that heats the state and federal buildings in the city. Gobs of cheap excess heat from the new bio-mass generators will be sold to the city and private sector.

About 100 people demonstrated earlier in the day Wednesday and ultimately received the decision they wanted. Community backlash began brewing after the council voted against a similar measure last week.

"Last week's vote didn't come with all these explanations," said resident Zack Hughes. Others in the assembled crowd at City Hall Wednesday evening say much of the discontent would have never emerged had better initial explanations been offered.

A few tweaks to the terms of the city-state agreement assuaged councilors' concerns that they faced writing a blank check.

"Economically it's a very sound, robust project," said Mayor John Hollar, "and I think we'll fully build it out but we're not going to know precisely the scope of the project until we receive our bids in October or November"

Following talks with the state, the city's future heating bill will be based on usage rather than a flat-rate. The project is estimated to cost Montpelier 4.3 million dollars. But, in a compromise with the state, Montpelier is only committed to the first stage of the build - 1.3 million dollars worth - until bids rather than just estimates are available.

The bulk of those in attendance applauded the move though as Montpelier power burns a bit greener. The lone holdout on the council - Councilor Alan Weiss - says he's still concerned by the deal.

He worries the plan lacks focus and that the new terms of the agreement aren't on paper yet. "I don't expect any applause," he noted from his chair, "I will vote 'no'."

The new plant is expected to deliver heat -- through a network of yet-to-be-built underground pipes-- at a rate equivalent to three dollar a gallon oil. However, hooking up to the new system is estimated to cost private entities between 30,000 and 180,000 dollars.

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