Officials weigh hydro report

The city of Watertown’s Municipal Power Plant on Marble Street. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Former Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. stressed on Monday the importance of a consultant’s long-awaited report on what the city should do to market its hydroelectric plant.

“It’s the most important document that the city will have going forward,” said Mr. Butler, who is heading the city’s hydroelectric task force.

On Monday night, consultant John “Skip” Trimble, managing director of AMBER Energy U.S. Inc., based in Maryland, gave a more than hour-long presentation about how the city can market its 95-year-old hydroelectric power plant on Marble Street.

Mr. Trimble met with the City Council, city officials and with members of Watertown’s hydroelectric task force on Monday night to discuss his findings.

The study includes technical information about what kinds of things can be done to the plant to reach the facility’s potential.

At the start, Mr. Trimble made it clear that the city should keep the hydroelectric plant and not sell it off because there are ways to make money.

“Most importantly, you have an asset, a resource,” Mr. Trimble said.

He outlined a series of revenue options to offset the loss of a lucrative contract with National Grid, which ends in 2029.

During his presentation, Mr. Trimble said the city can buy electricity from National Grid and then sell it at a discount to city residents and businesses.

If the city pursued that, Watertown could generate between $885,100 to $3.92 million a year, he said.

He also said that the city could then market more “products” once the lucrative contract with National Grid ends, adding that it would need to take some steps before it could do that.

“This is the beginning, not the end,” Mr. Butler said.

While Mr. Trimble looked at the revenue side of the issue, another consultant, Steve Wood, of Northeast Energy Services, is also looking at capital improvements to the plant.

If those improvements are completed, the city could then pursue other avenues of revenue, Mr. Trimble said.

The task force is waiting for Mr. Wood’s report before putting together its final report in the next few months, Mr. Butler said.

To put together his report, Mr. Trimble worked with City Comptroller James E. Mills, Water Superintendent Vicky Murphy, and Jeffrey Hammond, who oversees the plant.

“They’re a very talented team,” he said.

The task force was formed by Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith to explore options for operating the hydro plant after the agreement to provide hydroelectric power to National Grid ends.

“This is a great report,” he said.

In 1991, the city began the franchise agreement to sell electricity to National Grid. When the agreement expires, the power company will pay the city 34.78 cents per kilowatt-hour, much more than it will be valued on the open market.

At the end of the agreement, the city will receive about $6 million a year.

The city currently receives 25.82 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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