Montpelier Council Votes To Kill Heating Project

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Montpelier’s City Council has voted not to proceed with a district energy project that voters overwhelmingly approved.

The project called for the city to enter a contract with the state to purchase thermal energy that would heat municipal and private buildings.

Under the deal, Montpelier would contribute nearly $3 million to the $20 million project, and for months the city has been discussing contract negotiations relating to the district heat project.

The state had given the city a deadline of the end of this month to make a decision, saying it needed to know what size boilers to order before construction.

But at a meeting Wednesday night some councilors raised questions about whether participating in such a project was an appropriate role for city government. Others had concerns about potential financial risks if there weren’t enough customers. The Council opposed the plan, 4-to-2.

Montpelier Mayor John Hollar supports the heating district project because, he says, the benefits of larger wood-chip boilers are tremendous.

"They provide Montpelier – both the city government and many, many businesses downtown – with long-term stable cost of fuel," Hollar said in a phone interview Thursday. "I think that the numbers work. The project was one that provides significant financial and environmental benefits to our community."

Hollar says there’s still a chance, through further discussions with the state, to change councilors’ minds and call another meeting.

It’s unclear whether the state project would be feasible without Montpelier’s participation.

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