Yarmouth decision expected on 'Solarize 2.0'

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council is expected to vote May 17 to establish a Renewable Energy and Sustainability Task Force after the action was delayed last month by concern over a potential conflict of interest.

The council also on May 3 heard a report on an estimated $8.3 million public safety facility, which could go to a bond referendum in November. 

During an April 12 discussion about establishing the panel that will explore several energy and sustainability tasks – including a group solar purchasing program – Councilor Jim MacLeod questioned whether a disclosure should be required after learning Councilor April Humphrey’s brother works for ReVision Energy, a company that frequently works with municipalities on group purchasing agreements. 

However, a memo from town attorney Amanda Meader said there was no conflict that would prohibit Humphrey from discussing and voting on establishing the task force. 

Humphrey’s brother works in the warehouse and, in mentioning the potential conflict last month, MacLeod pointed out that ReVision is entirely employee-owned. However, the company didn’t become employee-owned until last October, according to ReVision’s Director of Engineering, Geoff Sparrow; Humphrey introduced a the solar initiative last July.

In January, the council rejected Humphrey’s original proposal for a “Solarize Yarmouth” program that would have provided a joint purchasing option for solar panels from a selected provider for residents and businesses. Last month, she came back with “Solarize 2.0,” which would select multiple installers to participate in the program, rather than just one. 

On March 1, Humphrey said if the council opts to advance the program, the next step would be establishing a task force to facilitate the program and also look at other sustainability options in town, which will be included on next week’s agenda.

Public safety complex

The council and various town department heads have been discussing for months the idea of renovating and expanding the fire station at 178 North Road to house both the town’s fire and police departments.

Moving the police station out of a Town Hall annex at 200 Main St. would free up space for Community Services, which is stationed in a modular unit behind Town Hall. 

A steering committee made up of town employees and citizens earlier this year voted unanimously in favor of Port City Architect’s “Option One.”

The proposed plans would create an L-shaped facility and add a second floor to the fire station that would serve as living quarters, complete with bathing, bunks, dining, storage, and laundry space.

The first floor of the fire station would be used for offices, reception, storage, meeting rooms, and a five-engine garage.

The Police Department would be to the rear of the proposed addition, connected to the fire station by a shared lobby, restrooms, fitness room, and emergency operation center/training space. 

The one-story police station would house office and storage space, conference rooms, restrooms, locker rooms, booking and interview rooms, and a laboratory.

While councilors said more discussion needs to happen, Vice Chairman Robert Waeldner said there was at least support to keep talks going and the project moving forward. 

The council plans to hold discussions throughout the summer, with the hopes of voting by July or August. Town Manager Nat Tupper said that would leave time for residents to become informed before seeing the question on November’s ballot, likely tied into the same bond referendum as the School Committee’s proposed $32 million facilities update

“I would hope that you would get to a vote by July or August,” Tupper said. “… You have adequate time to come to a conclusion on whether or not you think this is of merit and deserves to be put to the voters in November.” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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