Monday night’s vote by the Parks Commission rejecting a plan for thousands of solar panels on the old municipal dump in Seaside Park designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is giving Mayor Bill Finch a lot of gas. This is a mayor who cares deeply about green energy. The vote jeopardizes approval of the city’s 20-year proposed arrangement with United Illuminating that’s estimated to pay roughly $7 million under the terms of the arrangement, including hundreds of thousands of dollars bean counters were expecting to plug into the budget year starting July 1.
City officials had debated internally whether placing the solar field on the old dump required Parks Commission approval. Is the closed landfill in the west end of Seaside Park still considered park land? Apparently so, otherwise it would not have been brought to the park purveyors for approval.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled to take place before the City Council tonight at 7 p.m. City Council President Tom McCarthy’s not inclined to bring the matter to a vote by the council that approves municipal contracts in view of the Park Commission action Monday night. The commission voted against any solar panels in city parks. A group of neighbors from Black Rock and the South End showed up at the Parks Commission meeting to urge a vote against the proposal including Black Rock Councilman Rick Torres who’s cited several levels of opposition including lack of information, park land as an appropriate location and aesthetics for his constituency across the harbor.
City officials supporting the agreement must now regroup to find a way to secure passage of the UI agreement. Can they bring it back before the Parks Commission? Or can the City Attorney’s Office provide some legal cover to bypass the Parks Commission?
The mayor appoints parks commissioners with approval by the City Council. Parks Commissioners, according to the city’s website: Mark Marko, James Brideau, James Giles, Banjed Labrador, Frank Mercaldi, Cruz Rosa and Ann Owens.
Last October Finch announced a city partnership with United Illuminating for the Green Energy Park renewable energy project, one of the initiatives proposed in the City’s BGreen 2020 sustainability plan to create jobs, save taxpayers money and fight climate change.