Published March 31, 2021
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Voters at the Spring Town Meeting will be asked to approve a project that would upgrade aging equipment in the town’s buildings.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan noted during the Select Board’s meeting last week that the $6 million project will be funded through a bond that will “create the largest public works facilities project” in the town’s history.
“It will be completely off the tax rolls,” said Dolan. “It sounds too good to be true, but communities such as Melrose, Wakefield and countless others across the commonwealth have worked with companies to save money over a 20-year period.”
Trane Technologies, Inc. account executive Morgan Perras said energy service companies (ESCOs) “develop, design, build and arrange financing for projects that save energy, reduce energy costs and decrease operations and maintenance costs at their customers’ facilities.”
“In general, ESCOs act as project developers for a comprehensive range of energy measures and assume the technical and performance risks associated with a project,” said Perras.
Perras said the first phase of the project entails installing new boilers at Lynnfield Middle School, Lynnfield Public Library, Senior Center and the South Fire Station. She also said Lynnfield High’s HVAC system will be converted from steam to hot water.
Additionally, Perras said the first phase of the project involves installing a new Trane building automation system.
“All of the facilities would be able to be accessed from one point,” said Perras.
Perras said the first phase of the project would also make LED lighting upgrades. She said building envelopes would be upgraded by sealing cracks in different areas as well as weatherizing the facilities. She said new kitchen hood controls and walk-in cooler and freezer controls would be installed as well. She also said new pipe insulation would be installed.
The phase one project would cost $6 million, which Perras said would be funded over a 20-year period. She said energy savings would cover 99 percent of the project’s cost, including interest.
“It will avoid millions in capital expenses for the town,” said Perras. “This is all work that will need to be done eventually.”
Perras said Reading Municipal Light Department and Peabody Municipal Light Plant both offer utility rebates that could be used to reduce the project’s overall cost. She also said the project has environmental benefits.
“It will lead to a measurable reduction in utility consumption of about 30 percent along with a significant reduction in carbon emissions that go along with that,” said Perras.
If Town Meeting approves the project this June, Perras said the facility upgrades will take place this summer and next summer.
Select Board Chairman Chris Barrett asked if the project’s cost includes funds for the boilers at the high school.
Perras said the project includes funds for the boilers as well as other equipment such as pumps.
Barrett noted that residents will be asked to potentially approve building a new public safety building and a new library in the future. He asked if local officials took those projects into consideration while developing the energy service plan.
Dolan said local officials are “approaching this project right now as if the current buildings are going to stay” because there is no tentative vote scheduled for those projects.
“Those projects might be seven, eight or 10 years away,” said Dolan. “We still have to maintain these buildings. There is no risk to the community.”
Select Board member Phil Crawford said he supports maintaining the town’s buildings. He noted that some of the equipment built as part of the school project in the early 2000s will have to be replaced.
“This is very timely and will certainly benefit the town in a big way,” said Crawford. “I work in this arena and I see the maintenance contracts and capital costs that all of the cities and towns have to pay for, and it is significant. I think this is an excellent way to fund a project like this so the town can keep its buildings up-to-date over a long period of time. I think this is an excellent opportunity for the town and we should take advantage of it.”
DPW Director John Tomasz agreed.
“I am fully behind this program,” said Tomasz. “I think it is something the town will be very happy with.”
Barrett concurred with Tomasz’s sentiment.
“With the equipment in the schools aging, we need to bring them up to speed,” said Barrett. “It is definitely worth considering.”
Crawford asked whether the DPW or Trane will be in charge of maintaining the new equipment.
“It is a combination of whatever best suits the town’s needs,” said Perras. “Trane is happy to maintain equipment when it makes sense. Does it make sense for Trane to be replacing filters? Probably not.”
Looking down the road, Perras said the town would be able to install new Trane Classroom Unit Ventilators in all four schools as well as new exhaust fans. She also said new boilers will need to be installed at Huckleberry Hill School and Summer Street School. She said solar roof mounted panels or solar carports could be installed as well.