Wood Says City Should Have Done HHS Solar Project Itself

School Committeman Sven A. Amirian, who works for MassAmerican Energy, left the room for the vote.

School Committeman Sven A. Amirian, who works for MassAmerican Energy, left the room for the vote.

A school committee member, opposed to a plan to install solar arrays atop Haverhill High School, says he has been unfairly criticized when it’s the project’s supporters that are actually harming the city and taxpayers.

School Committeeman Scott W. Wood Jr. charged Wednesday the plan he twice rejected leaves millions of dollars on the table, enriches an elected official, exaggerates the scope of roof work and places children at risk.

“MassAmerican isn’t doing this for free. Everybody says this is free, this is free, this is free. They are not doing this for free. They’re taking a good portion of your savings in order to reimburse themselves for the roof, for the panels, to pay their investors back, and to make a profit for their company,” Wood said. His remarks came in response to sustained criticism from councilors who accuse Wood and his colleagues of costing the city money by voting against the 2.2 megawatt power project. Wood said he will continue to oppose the project when city councilors appear before the school committee tonight.

After speaking with the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Wood said he is convinced the city could undertake the project itself instead of sharing electricity revenue and savings with Marlborough-based MassAmerican Energy. He described the company as merely a “broker.”

“The one that I think is most financially advantageous to the city of Haverhill is actually for us to do the project.” Wood explained a number of communities and state departments have successfully built their own solar projects without the needs to share profits with investors. Adopting such a plan, he said, would save the city substantially more than the $10 million city councilors say is at risk. In addition, Wood said, there is grant money as well as low-interest renewable energy bonds available to communities.

Wood said the school committee might have backed a project if the schools had been consulted in advance and helped shape the project along lines suggested by the state. Haverhill School Superintendent James F. Scully confirmed Wednesday the school department was unaware of the negotiations.

“No we were not involved, and didn’t know it was happening, until we received a call from the vendor in question,” Scully told WHAV in an email.

The school committeeman repeated his criticism of School Committeeman Sven A. Amirian, who works for MassAmerican, financially benefiting from a city contract.

“I can’t find anybody that can give me one example of a sitting school committee member that got a contract that gave him any money—never mind a six-figure payout,” he said.

Wood, along with School Committee members Maura Ryan-Ciardiello and Shaun P. Toohey voted against advancing MassAmerican Energy’s plan last month. The move was widely seen as payback for an effort by Amirian, Gail M. Sullivan and Paul A. Magliocchetti to gut tradition and block Toohey’s appointment to the committee.

Wood said he has been consistent in his opposition to Amirian being paid despite a State Ethics Commission ruling Amirian can receive a commission.

“But, I think it is a gray area. Even if you can find a way to skirt the law, it certainly doesn’t make it right.” Wood said he has asked commissioners for another ruling, but has not yet received a response.

Estimates for Haverhill High School roof work to be paid by MassAmerican have also been greatly exaggerated, Wood said. Most of the “replacement” simply involves adding a new rubber cover. He is also concerned about inconsistent reports about the high school roof’s ability to handle the weight of snow. MassAmerican said the city will be prevented from removing snow from the high school roof once panels are installed. Two years ago, however, engineers advised the city to shovel snow because of the danger of the roof collapsing on students, Wood noted.

Wood also said he understands why city councilors continue to stand behind Amirian.

“I get the city council is like a country club. I get it. They are all are taking care of one of their own or trying to take care of one of their own. I completely understand that, but I believe they are looking at solar energy with tunnel vision,” Wood said, referring to Amirian.

5 thoughts on “Wood Says City Should Have Done HHS Solar Project Itself

  1. Young Master Wood wants the city to get into the business of installing solar panels. Might they need to spend some money to get it done.

    Call out the fool for what he is. The city messing around with energy generation and transmission would be a disaster. All it would create is some jobs and subcontracting work that young pols on the make can be sure are parceled out to the “right” people.

    Keep the city’s hands off the work in an area in which it has no experience, no demonstrated ability for a one-shot project.

    The city needs a project manager, yes — it would be stupid to give the keys to the store to some contractor. A project manager MANAGES THE WORK, his mere existence does not justify the city getting into the actual bolts of the worl.

    This guy is more out to lunch than I thought.

  2. I am guessing that Mr. Wood and his friends are still confused as to a “BID” process and how business works. 1. Business need to make money so they can pay people who work for them and keep any stockholders happy, then they pay taxes on that money. 2. A company puts together a proposal to satisfy requirements of a Request for proposal put out by an entity. 3. In this case, the city put out a request for proposals from various businesses for said project. 4. School committeeman decides his company might be interested in said project. 5. Various Companies submit proposals for project. 6. process continues and proposals are examined and it is decided which company gets the job. How am i doing so far ??? ( School committeeman has nothing to do with picking company for said project.) 7. School committee votes to approve project and go forward. ( school committeeman recuses himself from vote so there is no conflict) 8. Politics gets in the middle of said project due to open seat on said committee. 9. Feelings get hurt and little minds decide to change vote months later to satisfy childish vendetta that the residents of Haverhill have NOTHING to do with but must now pay the price. Still with me here folks ? 10. So now, Haverhill may lose opportunity to get new roof for high school AND solar project that could save Haverhill lots of money (could).

    So, here we sit. Blaming the fact that somebody who has a job makes money on a project he suggested and had no say whether or not said project gets approved or rejected. Becuase the committee vote their approval for the project back in December, said company is told they win bid and proceeds to start work on project. Company spends money to start project moving. ( Mayor now reneges on project to stay out of political fray, playing dumb ). Now city solicitor says we (Mayor) never signed on dotted line and never approved company starting project. Typical Ambulance chasing lawyer persona steps into character to confuse the issue. Everyone now points at each other, laying blame.

    I wonder how many other people on the School Committee work for nothing ?? There is no law that prevents someone from making a living under these circumstances. There are Ethical Rules put in place specifically for these instances, and if followed, allow this to happen.

    So, either there is an ethical issue or there is not !!! If you cannot prove there is an issue then you should do what is best for THE RESIDENTS of the city or recuse yourself from the discussion. THAT is why all of you are elected. To act in the best interests of the city. It is that simple. Residents are being punished for childish reasons. Residents will have to pay those millions for a new roof on a building that residents spent $30 million to renovate. So then let the roof leak and destroy the work that has been done. Wonderful attitude we have here. It never ends.

    • Jack, your analysis is interesting, but you’ve left out one important fact. The City of Haverhill hired Orlando Pacheco as an “Energy Manager”. Since he was hired the city has been rolling out one energy program after another, all of which include exaggerated cost savings and outright lies about the benefits to city taxpayers. What was Pacheco’s involvement in all this? If he is so qualified to hold the position of Energy Manager why wasn’t the city doing the project itself, as Wood suggests is an option?? If Pacheco is so competent why the need to broker the project??

      How is it that Jim Scully had no knowledge of this project until he got a call from the vendor? This alone suggests something really stinks about the integrity of this whole project.

      Jack, with all that you know about the dealings within this corrupt city, do you honestly believe the BID process wasn’t rigged?

      Scott Wood…..stick to your guns on this!!!!

      • I don’t know if it was rigged or not. But Wood is the head of the committee so he should have been involved and would know that. Unless of course he knows nothing about it. If that is the case then he should have said that and if he feels the process was rigged, then file an ethics complaint about it. He had plenty of time to do so and let the contractor KNOW something wasn’t right. Instead, nobody does or says anything until it’s too late.

        I am not saying Wood is wrong or right. But SOMEBODY needs to be a leader here and do what’s in the best interest of the residents.