Reading, MA — The Reading Municipal Light Department’s (RMLD) “below-the-line” payment to the town of Reading became clearer after two votes at the Board of Commissioners meeting on April 21. The first vote, which was unanimous, set the payment for Fiscal Year 2021 at $2,480,506, divided into two payments. Chair John Stempeck stated that the decision was “an excellent idea” as it allowed some predictability during the COVID-19 situation.
The second vote created a formula to set the payment going forward. Starting in 2022, the payment will be calculated using a factor of 3.875 mils per kilowatt-hour (kWh) sold by the RMLD over a three-year average. Stempeck argued that this plan protects RMLD during times of reduced sales, while also lending predictability to the payment for the town. If kWh sales increase as the service area grows, the payment will grow along with it. Commissioner Philip Pacino sought to add to the motion, requiring the Board of Commissioners approval of the payment 60 days prior to it being made. He also wanted to create a provision allowing the Commissioners to change the payment in the case of catastrophic events.
Commissioner David Talbot expressed opposition to the changes to the plan, stating that this addition at the end of a three-year cycle of negotiations was too late in the process for a change. He also argued that an annual vote would politicize the payment every single year. Talbot also continued that the commissioners already had the authority to adjust the payment in times of crisis and that it did not need to be codified, as it opened up the possibility for annual claims of disaster. Pacino withdrew his motion but abstained in the final vote. “We finally have a formula, and that is a great thing,” Stempeck commented.
RMLD General Manager Colleen O’ Brien presented plans for reopening the 230 Ash Street facility to the public, once deemed appropriate. The building has been closed to all but essential workers since the COVID-19 shut down. Once open, only five customers will be allowed in the lobby at a time and the lobby bathrooms will be closed with signage posted. Board of Commissioners meetings will continue to be virtual and there will be no outside group usage of the public spaces such as the cafeteria and the meeting room until the emergency has been lifted.
The Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the purchase of seven dual electric auto chargers for $69,167. These will be placed at Analog Devices but will be owned by RMLD. The Commissioners also voted 4-0 to purchase $153,893 worth of software to control generating stations aimed at helping RMLD “shred the peak” during summertime usage. Director of Integrated Resources Charles Underhill reported an eight percent drop in load since the outset of COVID-19. He expressed a positive outlook, however, “Right now we are not seeing a difficult situation, we are in better shape than expected.” Underhill confirmed.
The RMLD Board of Commissioners adjourned to executive session at 9:00 pm.