MONTPELIER — The district energy project is expected to continue dominating City Manager William Fraser’s time this week.
Fraser has been tasked with shoring up support from downtown building owners interested in tapping into the thermal energy distribution system the city is planning to build.
Fraser needs to get some non-city buildings onboard in order to close what amounts to an estimated budget shortfall of approximately $420,000. And he needs to do that in the next couple of weeks.
Without fairly solid commitments from building owners, the City Council could vote to kill the project for lack of funds.
To do that, Fraser has scheduled an informational meeting on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. with interested property owners.
At that meeting will also be a representative from Ever-Green Energy — the company that operates North America’s largest district energy system located in St. Paul, Minn.
Last week Fraser said that he’s confident that he can get commitments from enough non-city building owners to satisfy the City Council and keep the project moving forward.
In the letter the city manager sent to prospective building owners inviting them to the meeting, he said, “By connecting to the system in its initial design, you will enjoy certain distinct advantages, including being considered for optimum placement on the system route, and the possibility for financial incentives.”
On Wednesday there’s a “Don’t Frack Vermont” forum scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
The forum is organized by Vermont Natural Resources Council, along with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and 350 Vermont, as a panel discussion about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Fracking is a technique used for the extraction of natural gas and oil. It involves injecting millions of gallons of a chemical fluid into a well hole to fracture rock deep in the Earth in order release the gas or petroleum being sought.
Environmental organizations, like VNRC, are critical of the process because it is believed to contaminate water and cause other environmental damage.
France has banned the process. Other countries and some states in the US have put a moratorium on fracking.
The concern for Vermont is that there are natural gas deposits in the Northwestern region of the state. And while there’s an anti-fracking bill wending its way through the Vermont Legislature, there are still hurdles it must clear before it can pass, the VNRC news release says.
At the forum, folks can learn more about the legislation and how to get involved.
Also on Wednesday, the City Council is scheduled to meet to discuss goals and priorities for the next year.
The Council is asking the public to stop by that evening to share their thoughts on what the City Council should be focused on.
The City Council is also expected to go into executive session on Wednesday to discuss the city’s negotiating strategy in dealing with firefighter’s union. The contract is set to expire at the end of June.