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Wilbraham selectmen contemplate MLP manager position

Date: 9/11/2014

WILBRAHAM – The Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 8 saw updates regarding the Municipal Light Plant (MLP), an approved land lease agreement between the town and Renewable Energy Development Partners, and an unanimously agreed upon plan to move forward with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management in the ongoing search for a new town administrator.

The Board of Selectmen interviewed Nathan DeLong, Information Technology director, for the position of MLP manager. A decision will be made at a future meeting.

DeLong said as an MLP manager he would help develop a business plan for potentially developing fiber optic Internet service for municipal departments and residents in a stable and cost-effective manner.

“Instead of paying outside corporations to tie our buildings together, [we can] really start to take that money and reallocate it locally, [and] build something that we own, that the townspeople own, that we can use to improve our schools and our municipal government’s connectivity,” he said. 

Also approved was permission to construct an underground fiber optic conduit from the Wingate parcel and an interconnection at the police station.

“All the Massachusetts Broadband Institute equipment’s [at the police station] and it’s live,” DeLong said. “It’s really waiting for me to unplug and plug into. I have to make sure that when we do it, we don’t lose communication services.”

Richard Kobayashi, senior associate at the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass Boston, met with the board to discuss the center’s service in helping the town find a new town administrator.

Town Administrator Robert Weitz announced his plans to retire. An official letter of resignation has yet to be submitted.

Kobayashi said for $7,000 the Collins Center would help the town create a candidate profile, work to develop the initial gross recruitment, and give candidate resumes to the state.

“In order to attract the best candidates, we have to tell the town’s story,” he said. “This is no longer a business of you place a 50 word ad in some newspaper and see who shows and kind of pick the best person.”

The biggest risk for any board is picking the best candidate in a mediocre pool of candidates, he added.

For another $7,000, the Collins Center would meet and work with the Town Administrator Search Committee and other municipal department heads and staff in order to secure the best candidate for the position, he said.

The board agreed to move forward with the Collins Center during the meeting and also decided to consult with the Town Administrator Search Committee before signing a contract with the Collins Center for any specific amount of money.

Hank Ouimet, principal at Renewable Energy Development Partners, also met with the selectmen to discuss a land lease for roughly three acres at the Boston Road closed landfill for the development of a solar energy facility.

Construction for the project is entirely funded by Renewable Energy Development Partners and the town would receive a rate of power about two cents less than currently offered by National Grid.
The town would receive credits from the national grid as part of the transaction’s discount, based on excess energy from the landfill facility, he explained.

“Whether the national rate goes up or down, the town continues to save two cents,” Ouimet said.

On an annual basis the town would receive roughly $20,000 in power credits from about one million kilowatt hours per year. The town will also receive $15,000 in payments in lieu of taxes.

Also, C.W. Zimmer was appointed to the Playground and Recreation Committee after an interview with the board. His term will end on June 30, 2015.