Bethlehem Board of Selectmen
December 11, 2017
Present: Chairman Moritz, Selectman Boisseau, Selectman Ubaldo, Selectman Moore, Selectman Glavac.
Chairman Moritz opened the meeting at 6:00 pm.
Eric Fischer, Jon Lear, and Joe Darling from NEOgas came before the Board to discuss a proposed project that would convert the landfill gas at North Country Environmental Services to renewable natural gas. Mr. Fischer explained they have a long-term gas right contract with NCES and would be an independent entity. He said they have a buyer for all the gas. Mr. Fischer said this project would provide 8 -9 jobs and explained these are well paying positions and long term. He said the carbon reduction is equal to 60,000 tons a year and explained the techniques used to clean the gas to strip if of impurities. It was explained this project has a 15-year life and is based on landfill as it currently exists. Mr. Fischer said they have other locations around the country and this project wouldn’t be possible without a well running and well managed landfill. There was discussion about the possibility of piping for residents to have access and for a fuel station for residents. Mr. Fischer said both are possibilities. Mr. McGrath asked if the landfill expanded would the project have a 35-year life span and was told they have a 15-year contract but could sign a new contract that could go out 30 to 35 years. There was discussion on qualifying for tax breaks and they did not know of any. Julie Seeley asked if they were concerned about renewable credits going away due to the current political climate in Washington. Jon Lear said that is always a concern, but they will be fine until the end of the contract. They were asked if they approached other landfills in NH and said no based-on operation of landfills. Joe Darling said they met with NHDES and all are in favor of this and said there are other potential sites in NH that would jump on board. A question was asked how the residents would benefit directly and was told by tax revenue, good paying long term jobs and the reduced carbon emissions. Mrs. Jensen asked if they guaranteed the jobs would go to Bethlehem residents and was told they would prefer local employees because they want someone close by, but it depends on the labor pool in Bethlehem. The timeline of the project was discussed with the hope to have final approval in June/July and up in running sometime between Jan. and March 2019. There was discussion about the cost of town services they may generate and said they do fire drills at their site and will not be a cost because they donate to police and fire to offset. It was also said natural gas is one of the safest fuels you can use. Chairman Moritz asked what the facility cost is and was told it was variable but estimated a million and a half for the site and 3.5 million in vehicles. Mr. Lear said the final design will determine the value and said they would also be bringing in 3 phase power that would cost a million +. Julian Czarny asked about the noise for people who live close by and asked if it would look like an oil rig with zillions of LED lights. Mr. Fischer said at their site in Lugoff South Carolina it is in the middle of a neighborhood. He said they have sound proof enclosures around the compressors and said lights won’t be a problem. Ms. Seeley asked the Board to check on RSA 72:12a that allows pollution control facility to apply for exemption. She said Casella did that but said it was designed for a power plant. Mr. Lear said he is unaware of that circumstance and has no intent of seeking an exemption and said that is part of negotiating with the town. Selectman Glavac asked if they could quantify 60,000 tons. He was told they haven’t done the math on that but will get that info. Selectman Glavac also asked if the project doesn’t happen what happens to the 60,000 tons and was told it will continue to flare. Selectman Glavac told them they do not need a zoning change but need a special exception. They were directed to the Planning Board for that process. Selectman Ubaldo said the area could become industrial and is very excited about this. He said he sees the flare from his house and likes the cleaning, environmentally friendly repurposing of it etc. He said cleaning up the flare is a huge bonus and said if the area is rezoned other facilities could come that use high energy. Selectman Glavac asked what the cost to the town is for them to bring in 3 phase power and was told none that they pay the 1 -2 million to bring it in. Selectman Ubaldo asked about the pay range for the jobs and was told drivers get paid approximately $52,000 year for 40 hours/week and they usually have 2 techs that get paid approximately $70,000/year.
The Board reviewed the default budget. Chairman Moritz moved to accept the default budget. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 4-0.
Chairman Moritz said she has received correspondence from someone interested in renting the country club for the 2018 season. She said the Board could rent it out for one year without a vote but thinks it is a liability to rent for just a year. She said she would propose a warrant article for March with a time line to consider renting or selling. Selectman Glavac agrees and is a proponent of a long-term lease. He said he likes the idea of a warrant article for lease or sell. The Board discussed the option of running the country club for 2018 while looking for a renter or buyer if the warrant article passes. Selectman Glavac said the Board shouldn’t box themselves into waiting until 2019. He said they should focus on how the country club can contribute to the general fund and they can start the process in 2018. Selectman Boisseau said he wouldn’t want to lease for a year. Selectman Ubaldo said they would have to put it out for lease or sale to give others opportunity to bid. Mr. Czarny suggested the Board not sell the property next to the golf course so they can groom that package to have as much land/assets possible. Chairman Moritz said that land does not abut the golf course. Sonya Clark asked if the person interested is interested in the entire operation and Chairman Moritz said she felt they were interested in entire country club. Ms. Clark said in the past they outsourced the food service.
The Board reviewed a confidentiality agreement from NCES and said attorney Walter Mitchell reviewed it, so they could get privy financial information if there is an abatement. The Board signed the agreement.
The Board reviewed a letter about liquor approval for Rek-Lis Brewing. Chairman Moritz moved to accept the liquor license. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 5-0.
Chairman Moritz said she looked into forming a capital improvement committee and found there are 3 requirements; we have a Planning Board, we have a Master Plan, and legislative body has to approve. She said they will have a warrant article in March to have a capital improvement plan committee. Selectman Ubaldo asked what does the committee do and Chairman Moritz said it was recommended they have a committee and a capital asset policy from the auditors. She said they plan for equipment, repair needs etc. to help with budgeting. She said the committee is made up of 1 Planning Board member, 1 Select Board member, 1 Department Head, 2 at large members and if we had a budget committee the treasurer would be a member. The Board felt the treasurer should be included even though we don’t have a budget committee.
The Board reviewed correspondence from NH Housing about the Ahead housing project that was asking if the Board had any input. The Board did not have input to send back to them.
The Board reviewed a request to pay $50.00 towards expenses for the Ammonoosuc River Local Advisory Committee. Selectman Glavac said they support them every year but wants the report they generate. Chairman Moritz said they will get that and vote next week.
The Board reviewed the minutes from 11/27/17 and 12/04/17
Selectman Glavac moved to approve the minutes as written. Chairman Moritz seconded. Carried 5-0.
Chairman Moritz moved to approve the minutes as written. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 4-0 (Selectman Glavac abstained).
At 7:50 Chairman Moritz moved to go into non-public session per RSA 91A:3 II for matters of personnel and legal. Selectman Moore seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to go into non-public session.
Dann objected to the non-public session.
The Board discussed legal and personnel.
At 9:00 Selectman Moore moved to come out of non-public session. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to come out of non-public session.
At 9:00 Chairman Moritz moved to adjourn. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Carried 5-0.