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Partnership with LRPC may save on fuel costs

May 09, 2018
BRISTOL — The Bristol Board of Selectmen has agreed to participate in a regional bidding process in an attempt to decrease the town's oil and propane costs.

The Lakes Region Planning Commission, which successfully negotiated lower electric rates for participating towns last year, is launching a similar effort to use group buying power to negotiate better rates for heating fuel. Bristol did not participate in the earlier experiment, but this time decided it was worth exploring.

The towns that joined in the regional planning commission's bulk buying plan last year realized an estimated $75,000 in savings on electricity, with a negotiated rate that was about 2 percent lower than what the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative was charging, and 48 percent less than Eversource's electric rates.

Barnstead, Center Harbor, Danbury, Moultonborough, Northfield, Sanbornton, and Tuftonboro had signed on as being "very interested" in bulk energy purchasing, while Alton, Belmont, Effingham, Gilford, Meredith, Tilton, and Wolfeboro were "somewhat interested." Bristol negotiated its own contract for electricity.

This time around, Town Administrator Nik Coates said it made sense to see what the planning commission could come up with for fuel costs. There is no obligation for a town to accept the negotiated rate, and because the process is getting underway on May 18 with a June 29 deadline for towns to return signed contracts, Bristol still will have time to pursue its traditional contract negotiations if the town does not like the LRPC's figures. Bristol normally signs its fuel purchase agreements in August, Coates said.

During a short meeting on May 3, the selectmen also authorized the signing of several contracts: an ambulance contract providing services to Alexandria, Danbury, and Hill as well as Bristol; a geotechnical contract for test borings at the Bristol Fire Station; and a construction contract for work at the Bristol solid waste transfer station.

Last month, Fire Chief Ben LaRoche had come to the selectmen with a single bid for the architectural and engineering work at the fire station in anticipation of future expansion of the building. Warren Street Architects came in with a price of $15,000, but selectmen pointed out that town policy calls for three bids.

This month, LaRoche and Coates had three bids for the geothermal work, with M&W Soils Engineering Company of Charlestown coming in with the lowest cost, to win the contract. M&W's price was $4,650, compared to $6,700 for Nobis Engineering of Concord and $6,000 for Ward Geotechnical Consulting of Bow.

Selectmen had previously discussed Morrison Construction's bid for work at the transfer station. Coates said the town had made some revisions in the contract to meet the recommendations of Bristol's insurance provider, and selectmen agreed to give Coates the authority to sign the contract. Selectman J.P. Morrison abstained from the vote, and Selectman Rick Alpers was not present to vote.

The selectmen also agreed to allow the Tapply-Thompson Community Center hire a swimming instructor for the summer, with Selectman Les Dion, the community center's executive director, abstaining from the vote. The two-week classes will operate in four sessions beginning June 25, with each class meeting for 45 minutes, five days a week. As it did last year, the town will issue temporary parking permits to the participants' families to allow them to park at the beach while classes are in session.

Selectmen agreed to sign a petition by the Newfound Lake Region Association, asking for a lake level study to find out why the lake seems to be higher than it used to be. State law outlines the procedure for requesting such a study of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services' Dam Bureau, and Bristol signed on as an abutter.

Board members did not take Coates up on his suggestion of "going paperless" for meetings. He noted that selectmen receive their board packages by email ahead of time, and said the town could save money if it did not also print out all of the documents. Acting Chair Don Milbrand said he objected because that tends to have everyone staring at their laptops during meetings, and Dion concurred, saying she has seen officials stare at their computers and fail to make eye contact with one another and with their constituents attending meetings.

Coates reported that the new company that won the information technology contract has been assessing the needs of the town personnel. He said they will be installing e-ticketing software that allows them to remotely address any computer problems, which should save the town money that formerly went to travel by the technicians.

Coates also noted that he has been receiving calls about the new utility poles that have been put in place without the installation being completed or the dirt around the poles removed. He said they are waiting for the fire department to complete its work on the alarm system the complete the project.

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