Barrington residents push back against town's solar lease

FTM attendees call for lease details before vote

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/30/23

Barrington residents convinced a town official to withdraw a motion that would have entered the town into a long-term lease with a solar installation company.  

Concerns about the lease …

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Barrington residents push back against town's solar lease

FTM attendees call for lease details before vote


Barrington residents convinced a town official to withdraw a motion that would have entered the town into a long-term lease with a solar installation company. 

Concerns about the lease agreement surfaced shortly after town officials made their pitch for the deal during the financial town meeting on May 24, and culminated with comments from Fletcher Thomson. 

The Barrington resident and longtime attorney said taxpayers needed to know the specific terms of the lease before they could vote on the motion. Thomson said he might be in favor of the deal between the town and the solar installation company, but could not vote on a lease without first knowing the details of the agreement. 

Thomson’s concerns, coupled with comments from other residents and town officials, led Barrington Town Council President Carl Kustell to withdraw the motion. 

Ann Strong was the first person to question the motion. A former member of the Town Council, Strong asked Kustell what the dollar amount was for the lease. 

Kustell would not offer any specific financial information. 

Strong said she had filed two motions prior to the financial town meeting which were deemed “out of order” by the town solicitor because they allegedly did not focus on a specific financial action. 

Strong said this motion was also out of order because it was not tied to the town’s tax levy.

Barrington Town Moderator Richard Staples looked to the assistant solicitor, Amy Goins, for a response. Goins said the town’s solar lease motion was fine as the FTM has the power to approve long-term leases. 

But despite Goins’s comments, others at the meeting began to question the motion. Stephen Primiano, the chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, asked for more specific financial information regarding the lease. He suggested an amendment that ensured the deal would provide net savings to the town. 

Kustell, Town Manager Phil Hervey and former Town Council President Michael Carroll reassured meeting-goers that the lease would save the town money.

Longtime Barrington resident James Jackson said he had attended 64 financial town meetings. A former town solicitor, Jackson argued that it was not appropriate to consider a lease agreement without disclosing all the details. 

John Conti said it was not a good idea to approve the motion without providing more information, even if the lease turned out to be a good deal for Barrington. 

Another resident said the discussion was starting to feel like the FTM two years ago when residents narrowly approved the purchase of the former Carmelite monastery property. She said there was not enough information shared about the solar lease deal.

Rep. Jason Knight had procedural questions about the motion and amended motion. 

Thomson’s comments appeared to be a tipping point, and Kustell agreed to withdraw the motion.

Solar deal

The town has been working with the solar installation company, Solect, to build a small array of solar panels at the Bay Spring Community Center. 

The company initially agreed to the installation, but later re-worked the commitment: Solect now will only complete the community center installation if the Barrington School Department agrees to have the company install a much larger array atop the Barrington Middle School roof.

During a recent meeting, Barrington School Committee members told Solect official Allen Giles that the district would need to do more research into the work before agreeing to the middle school project. School officials said it might make better financial sense to install its own array rather than signing a lease with a solar installation company.

Giles has attended numerous town and school meetings and has told officials that the installations would not cost the town any money, and that the power purchase agreement would save Barrington money on its electricity bills. 

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