Portland to hire energy coordinator, sell former Rec Dept. building

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PORTLAND — The city will spend $168,000 of its most recent federal stimulus funding to hire an energy and sustainability coordinator.

The new, three-year position will be responsible for educating employees in energy efficiency as it applies to municipal buildings and operations; keeping track of the city’s greenhouse gas inventory, and overseeing funding and grant opportunities. It will be paid for through a $685,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s portion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

The City Council also voted Monday night to sell the building it owns at 19 Arbor St. to the software and data analysis company Crickery Wood, for $460,000. The company, founded by Bull Moose founder Brett Wickard, plans to move its operations from downtown to the building near Morrill’s Corner.

As part of its recommendation for how to spend the city’s latest stimulus funds, the council voted to pump about half a million dollars into making the city’s infrastructure more energy efficient. Most improvements will be based on the results of a recently conducted energy audit and could include making street lights more efficient, weatherizing city-owned buildings and upgrading HVAC systems.

The city has to submit an application to the Department of Energy by June 25 in order to receive the funding.

Arbor Street sale

The city-owned building on Arbor Street, which is off of Forest Avenue, was previously used by the Recreation Department, but has been vacant since that department was dissolved last year. 

The brick building, built circa 1902, has been on the market for about eight months. Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director, said that although the city would sell the building for $460,000, which is about $60,000 below its appraised value, the buyer is offering cash. Mitchell also said the building needs some work before it can be occupied.

City Councilor Cheryl Leeman said the sale has lots of benefits. Leeman is chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, which recommended the sale. 

“Right now we have a vacant building that pays no property tax,” she said.

Crickery Wood, Leeman pointed out, intends to move its headquarters and 14 employees to Arbor Street and also add another 10 to 15 workers.

“We’re getting almost a half a million for the property,” she said. “Before we had zero dollars. This is a lot better than zero.”

The council approved the sale 7-0, with Mayor Jill Duson absent and Councilor Kevin Donoghue not present for the vote. The city hopes to finalize the sale within 30 days.

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