Portland council approves $11M bond for energy upgrades

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PORTLAND — Dozens of city and school buildings will get energy efficiency upgrades as part of an $11 million energy bond the City Council approved Monday night.

The spending measure includes upgrades ranging from roof replacement at schools to new hot water boilers at the Barron Center.

“We’re going to be saving some huge amounts of money,” Councilor Dave Marshall said.

The city plans to begin upgrading buildings by the end of this year. Some of the projects will be managed by Massachusetts-based consulting firm Ameresco and some by city staff, according to a memo from city Finance Director Ellen Sanborn.

Ameresco produced an energy audit for city, and the the City Council’s Energy and Sustainability Committee reviewed the company’s findings. Funding was then approved by the Finance Committee, before the proposal went to the City Council.

At the Barron Center, $2.4 million in upgrades include replacing antiquated  boilers and installing new windows in a laundry room.

At City Hall, the Council Chambers air conditioning system will be upgraded along with work at the Merrill Auditorium, totalling nearly $400,000.

The Reiche School pool will get a new solar water heating system for about $80,000.

The electric water heaters at Lyseth, Lyman Moore and Presumpscot schools will be upgraded to more efficient systems.

Lyseth School is also getting a new roof, along with Presumpscot, King and Hall schools.

Improvements in many of the schools – 14 are listed – will include installing motion sensor lighting and upgrading to more efficient bulbs. Several schools are also slated for insulation upgrades.

The vending machine controls at more than a dozen city and school buildings will be upgraded, too.

The Public Safety Building on Middle Street will get about $424,000 in upgrades. The Exposition Building is earmarked for nearly $450,000 in improvements.

The bonding measure did receive some criticism from the public Monday night. Steven Scharf said the city had not provided residents with enough information on the improvements.

“The public has no sense of what you’re planning to do,” Scharf  said. He also questioned why the East End Community School, which he said was touted as the “most efficient building” in the city when it opened in 2006, needs more than $211,000 in upgrades.

The council approved the $11 million in borrowing 7-0, with Councilors Cheryl Leeman and Dory Ann Waxman absent.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

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