South Portland, SMCC to train energy auditors

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday created a new energy efficiency training and weatherization program in conjunction with Southern Maine Community College.

The council also waived the formal bidding process and approved $80,000 in emergency purchases for the Fire and Public Works departments.

The new energy efficiency and weatherization program is being funded with $60,000 in previously unused Community Development Block Grant funds.

Up to $20,000 will be used as scholarships for income-eligible residents to enroll in SMCC’s continuing studies courses on energy efficiency. In exchange for the grants, students must perform 40 hours of field work in income-eligible households.

Councilor Patti Smith noted that Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in New England and applauded the partnership between the city and the college.

“I think this program is right on target,” Smith said. “Whenever you connect those two entities it has a ripple effect that is sometimes beyond calculation.”

In addition to the scholarships, Assistant City Manager Erik Carson said the program will designate $10,000 to purchase energy auditing equipment, such as infrared cameras and door-mounted blowers.

Another $10,000 will be allocated for weatherization materials not covered through two existing state programs, Carson said: the Low Income Heating Assistance Program and the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

The remaining $20,000 will pay for emergency furnace and roof repairs for low- and moderate-income residents, Carson said.

“This is exactly what we should be doing,” Mayor Tom Coward said. “The low-hanging fruit of energy conservation and small projects … just gets us that much closer to our energy-efficiency goals.”

Emergency purchases

In other business, councilors unanimously approved waiving formal bidding requirements to approve contracts to fix structural columns at a fire station and to repair a front-end loader.

The city code requires purchases of more than $10,000 to be put out to public bid. Expenditures approved on Monday night totalled nearly $80,000. 

Fire Chief Kevin Guimond said that structural issues were uncovered at Cash Corner Fire Station, which was built in the 1970s, when support beams were undergoing cosmetic repairs.

Once cracks were noticed in the three concrete support columns, Guimond said a structural engineer was called and determined the columns lacked structural integrity.

“Because of the structural concerns and the winter snow load coming, we really need to get it done before we put a foot of snow on that building,” Guimond said.

Three contractors were called for estimates on the project, but only two submitted bids. Haskall & Hall’s bid of $48,000 beat Apex Construction’s bid of $88,500.

The council also waived bidding requirements to make more than $28,000 in repairs to a front-end loader for the Public Works Department.

Parks and Recreation Superintendent John Switzer said the roll bar of the loader, which is heavily used during snow storms, was compromised by being stored outside.

Switzer said city should be able to get another six years out of the machine after it is repaired.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or