Rear of the Haverhill Police Station, showing where some solar panels have been removed to make room for a snow guard. (WHAV News photograph.)
Haverhill began taking electricity from solar panels on the roof of Haverhill Police Station Thursday—a milestone not winning cheers from the city’s police chief or his officers.
Asked by WHAV for his reaction, Chief Alan R. DeNaro reluctantly shared the solar installation seems to have damaged the station’s new $450,000 roof, newly-drilled holes brought rainwater into the men’s locker room—an area that had not previously seen leaks—and left behind a problem of snow sliding off the roof into rear entryways to the building.
“When they put solars in, we were not involved in the process,” DeNaro explained. When panel installation began last fall, DeNaro said, his first concern was placement over the “Sally Port” doors in the back of the station where prisoners are brought in. “We have 1,100 prisoners a year so obviously, that’s an area that’s used quite heavily.” The chief said it was clear to him and his officers, an “avalanche” of snow would fall from the array.
What he called a “band-aid approach,” contractor MassAmerican Energy erected a snow guard which, the chief said, is too low to hold back falling snow. During the last storm, crashing snow also damaged the building’s air conditioning units and also fell over doors to the department’s traffic unit.
After repeated requests, DeNaro said, MassAmerican brought forward an idea to build a new flat roof, metal awning over the building’s rear doors and air conditioning equipment.
As for new water leaks, the chief said, MassAmerican’s own roofing contractor said, “The roof is a mess. It was done horribly…you could actually see into the building.”
City Purchasing Agent and Energy Manager Orland Pacheco acknowledged the leaks. “There was one area that was not properly sealed and there was some water that came into the building.”
However, Pacheco said, MassAmerican addressed the leaks right away and, to his knowledge, no water has entered the building during the recent rains. While holes have been plugged for the time being, the city has contracted with Gale Associates to conduct as independent inspection of the roof next week at a cost of between $4,000 and $8,000, depending on whether a lift is required. Pacheco said the city will not pay the power purchase agreement until an independent analysis is completed.
“They have taken ownership, and will have to take ownership, of any damage,” he said.
Haverhill Police Patrolmen’s Association President Rick Welch said the union has notified the chief and Mayor James J. Fiorentini about safety concerns over the array. He said officers have witnessed hundreds of pounds of snow fall into employee entrances. He said he meeting today with the union’s Boston law firm, Louison, Costello, Condon and Pfaff about panel concerns.
This past Tuesday, City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle asked for a review of all of the police station’s problems.
“The roof, the warranty to the roof, the solar panels, that solar panel installation—when it’s going online, mold remediation, the windows, any insulation problems. Just a general overall, comprehensive understanding of what we have in front of us for what’s happening to that building,” McGonagle said.
Latest Problem Adds to Union Concerns About Building Health and Safety
Welch said the latest concern adds to complaints about air quality and safety hazards the union has filed over the past one and a half to two years. The earlier complaints relate to mold and water leaks.
“We have had members go and be seen for respiratory issues that are believed to be the results of poor air quality,” Welch said.
Additional concerns have been raised by Superior Officers Association President Robert P. Pistone and Vice President Stephen Doherty and Patrolman Scott Ziminski, who has overseen many repairs to the 17-year-old building.
The new solar panels were originally designed to produce 59 kilowatts of electricity. The amount will now be somewhat less because of the removal of some panels to accommodate the snow guard. An agreement calls for the city to purchase power at a 20-year, fixed rate of 9.25 cents per kilowatt hour.