Portland, S. Portland seek climate plan bidders

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PORTLAND — More than 30 firms are showing interest in helping the city and South Portland create a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

Bids are scheduled to be opened Aug. 28 at Portland City Hall in a joint request for proposals for what is expected to be a $220,000 study with a key goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from current levels by 2050.

The South Portland share of $110,000 was funded in this year’s capital improvements budget. In Portland, councilors on Aug. 13 approved funding the city share from proceeds of the $3.3 million sale of a parking lot on Thames Street.

Potential bidders who have received the RFP include local and regional consultants, as well as at least two from the Pacific Northwest. Bids will be evaluated on a 100-point basis by a selection committee represented by both cities, with a 45-point maximum for project approach, 30 points for fees, and 25 points for previous experience.

It is expected the winning bidder will take 18 months to develop a plan to both reduce energy use and prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea-level rises, more frequent and violent storms and warming water temperatures.

“The chosen consultant will have a broad range of expertise but will have particular strength in energy policy in order to provide recommendations for transitioning from carbon-based fuels to renewables – particularly in the transportation and building sector,” the RFP said.

The collaboration on developing a plan was first made public last winter, as Portland City Manager Jon Jennings and his South Portland counterpart, Scott Morelli, agreed it would be best to develop a regional strategy while potentially minimizing consulting costs.

Emissions reduction is a goal set forth in the Mayors National Climate Agenda endorsed by councils in both cities.

The RFP said plan development should focus on the areas of waste reduction, preparedness and resilience, transportation and land use, and energy efficiency in construction.

“The final plans will provide concrete, data-driven strategies to achieve the goals stated by each City Council as well as interim objectives the cities should achieve in order to reach near carbon neutrality,” the RFP said.

The consultant selected must also emphasize public engagement, with at least two community forums and a joint forum coming after “collecting input from a wide variety of community members regarding their interests and needs.”

Sustainability efforts to meet RFP goals have emerged in both cities over the last five years. Last month, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved amending the permit governing the Ocean Avenue landfill in Portland to allow a solar farm to be built above it.

The farm was to be opened in conjunction with one in South Portland at the landfill on Highland Avenue, which opened in October 2017. The South Portland Planning offices on Ocean Avenue are also solar powered.

Both cities require owners of certain private buildings to compile and report energy use data, and Portland councilors have agreed on a goal to have all municipal operations shift from fossil fuel use by 2040.

In 2014, the Urban Land Institute studied how the cities were planning for climate change, larger storm tides and elevated sea levels and recommended measures that included berms, drainage improvements and zoning changes to require new construction and other infrastructure to be better placed away from potential harm.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A contractor hauls gravel to the top of the Ocean Avenue landfill in Portland, where a solar farm could generate enough power for City Hall.

Former South Portland Mayor Patti Smith flips the switch to turn on a solar farm in that city in October 2017. The city hopes to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.