daily news transcript

TM backs NStar power pact

By Brian Falla/Daily News staff
Posted Jun 24, 2008

NORWOOD -- Town Meeting last night ratified a deal that could bring $40.1 million into town coffers over the next 20 years.

The agreement, which Town Meeting approved by a 117-14 margin - the total number of members present being three more than that required for a quorum - will allow the utility company to use the town's Ellis Avenue electric substation to provide additional power to its customers in Westwood.

As part of the agreement, Town Meeting gave its approval for the light department to borrow up to $24 million to fund the design and installation of a system that will bring power through the substation to the Westwood line. The power will then go through a pair of ducts to be installed beneath portions of University Avenue and Rte. 1.

General Manager John Carroll said all costs associated with the work, including debt service and interest, will be funded by NStar.

In exchange, the town will receive $2.05 million payments in each of the next two years, after which the utility company will pay the town's Electric Light Department $1.8 million annually for the remainder of the contract - up to 20 years beyond the date when electricity actually flows into Westwood.

Selectman Jerry Kelleher, who worked on the town's negotiating team over the last two years to finalize the deal, said Town Meeting's overwhelming approval last night was gratifying.

"This is a great deal for the town of Norwood," Kelleher said after the approval. "It's probably the most intense thing I've been involved with, but people elect us to get creative and find new sources of revenue and that's what this is."

But Town Meeting member Robert Capasso wanted to make some changes to the proposed agreement, specifically to include language for NStar to secure its debt to the town pledging assets in the event it goes bankrupt or something happens that could void the deal.

Capasso said he is not opposed to the deal, but worries there is some legal wiggle room in the contract that could put the town at risk.

Town Counsel Mike Lehane said amending the contract would mean going back to the drawing board.

"To amend the motion would be tantamount to disapproving the transaction," said Lehane.
Selectman Bill Plasko added that the contract was approved by bond counsel as well as a team of lawyers on both sides.

"This was negotiated on our behalf by very talented lawyers who specialize in this field," Plasko said.

Finance Commission Chairwoman Judith Langone said the board met with Carroll and light department officials for two hours over the weekend and came away endorsing the project.

"A lot of questions were asked, but we're satisfied this is a good deal for Norwood," said Langone.

Capasso said he is also worried that the town's Electric Light Department essentially becomes a landlord in the deal and will be forced to maintain the system at a high level.

"It's a great responsibility," Capasso said.

But Lyons said the reason NStar found the deal attractive is because the light department has a reputation for great maintenance.

"We don't have to raise the bar here," said Lyons.

Lyons said the town is expecting to receive the $2.01 million payment as early as Monday.

Daily News staff writer Brian Falla can be reached at 781-433-8339 or at bfalla@cnc.com