Aquinnah selectmen this week inched closer to a final contract with Vineyard Power to install a solar array at the landfill, but pressed for clearer contingency plans from the community energy cooperative in the event of a problem.
As the contract is now written, Vineyard Power will lease space at the landfill from the town for $3,900 a year. At the end of 10 years, the town has the option to buy the solar array from Vineyard Power. The rent money will be saved in an escrow account, and at the end of 10 years if the town decides to buy the array, the $39,000 would go toward the purchase price, which has not been set.
If the town opts not to buy the array, Vineyard Power can extend the lease for up to 15 years at five-year intervals.
On Tuesday selectmen pressed Vineyard Power president Richard Andre for a plan in the event the energy cooperative goes bankrupt. Town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport has suggested a payment up front of $12,000, the estimated cost of removing the solar arrays.
Mr. Andre hesitated to agree to the terms.
“There’s not enough money in all of the system to do that,” he said of the cooperative. “I would need to do an analysis, I can’t flippantly say yes. If that array was five years old and we disappeared, you’re going to want to have that array there and produce electricity and receive all of the benefits of the rent.”
Voters approved the 60,000-kilowatt display at a special town meeting in December and selectmen have been working since then to complete a contract with Vineyard Power.
The system is expected to cost about $330,000 to install; Vineyard Power will pay for the installation using a combination of bank and private loan money. The town will receive a 10 per cent discount on electricity from NStar.
The annual electricity demand of the town was originally thought to be 60,000 kilowatts and the solar project was designed to meet that need. But a recent energy audit conducted by the town found that energy-saving measures put in place had reduced the demand slightly.
Mr. Andre said while the town will be obligated under the agreement to buy 100 per cent of the electricity through Vineyard Power, they could designate another electricity customer in town, such as the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) or the Gay Head Light, to receive the excess electricity.
The selectmen, Mr. Rappaport and Mr. Andre are expected to review a revised contract next week.
In other business Tuesday, Aquinnah police chief Randhi Belain requested that Det. Ryan Ruley be promoted to staff sergeant, a new position in the police department.
Selectman and board chairman Jim Newman said the issue must be negotiated in executive session because the staff sergeant position is not in the current police contract. The position also must be advertised, Mr. Newman said. Chief Belain disagreed, calling it a simple promotion, but Mr. Newman said the matter needs discussion with the bargaining unit. The bargaining unit consists of Mr. Ruley, patrolman Steven Mathias and Sgt. Paul Manning.
The bargaining unit will meet Feb. 21 at 3 p.m. to discuss the position; Mr. Ruley has recused himself.
Mr. Belain began to explain the promotion, but Mr. Newman cut him short. “We’re not discussing [it] tonight,” he said. “If it’s to be discussed it’s to be discussed in executive session and not in a public forum.”
The promotion would place Mr. Ruley a rank above Mr. Manning, and Mr. Newman said the promotion is “starting to turn the town upside down.”
“We need to discuss it in executive session and not let it be something that slides away,” he said. “There has to be due process, that’s what concerns me.”
The selectmen also heard a report from acting deputy fire chief Simon Bollin, who said the depleted fire department was getting back on track. Mr. Bollin said four new people had joined the department in the last two weeks, and a drill is planned with the West Tisbury and Chilmark fire departments on Sunday to simulate a fire at the shops on the Cliffs.
“We’ve been working really hard to get things back up to where they need to be,” Mr. Bollin said.
Later in the evening the selectmen held a final interview in executive session with Bill Smith, who is a candidate for fire chief. No vote was taken.