ROCKLAND, Maine — An energy company based in Boston wants to build a natural gas-fired energy plant to produce steam and electricity on property now occupied by City Hall and the public services garage.
Rockland Energy Center LLC, care of Energy Management Inc. of Boston, submitted the sole bid to purchase the city properties. The company bid $1.2 million for the City Hall property and $350,000 for the public services property. The company also offered to pay $1,000 per month for an option-to-buy agreement until the sale is complete.
The City Council has scheduled a meeting for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at which time it will vote on granting the option for the parcels and direct the city manager to negotiate an agreement for the sale.
“As you are aware, Rockland Energy Center, LLC is considering locating a combined cycle cogeneration facility on the properties,” according to the company’s bid opened Monday morning at City Hall.
Such a combined cycle power plant would use both gas and steam turbines to generate electricity, according to the online publication Electrical Engineering Portal. Waste heat from the gas turbine would be used to make steam to generate additional electricity via the steam turbine.
Rockland Energy’s proposal also indicates some of the steam would be piped to other local industries to heat their facilities and the plant would sell the electricity it makes to Central Maine Power.
“The facility will have significant benefits for the city of Rockland, including tax revenue and support for local manufacturing. The project will also benefit the midcoast region by anchoring a new high pressure natural gas lateral that will bring new clean natural gas supplies to the city and the region,” the bid stated.
There are no natural gas lines in the Rockland area at the moment but Patrick Woodcock, director of the governor’s energy office, said Monday that extending a natural gas line to the Rockland and Camden area is a top priority for the state. He said there is no timetable for extending the line.
City Manager James Chaousis said the identity of the company interested in the Rockland properties was not disclosed until the bid was opened because of concern by Energy Management that a competitor might try to sabotage the project by bidding higher to prevent construction of the plant.
City councilors held a closed-door meeting two weeks ago on the matter and had not given out information on the project or explained the secrecy behind it. The city manager said the company had come to the city with an interest in building the plant in Rockland and looked at other sites in the Industrial Park before expressing its interest in the city properties on April 9.
The city manager said more information is expected to be provided by the company next week. He said he could not provide details on the size of the power plant or the number of jobs that may be created.
A telephone message left with Energy Management in Boston was not returned Monday.
The size of the plant has not been announced. Casco Bay Energy LLC operates the Maine Independence Station, which is a 520-megawatt natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant in Veazie. That plant, built in 2001, generated $1.8 million in net property taxes for the town last year.
Rockland’s top taxpayer currently is FMC Corp., which pays about $435,000 in taxes.
In 1975, Energy Management Inc. began developing energy conservation and pollution control projects for institutional and industrial facilities, according to its website. In 1985, the company transitioned to developing independent power projects. The company has developed six natural gas-fired electric generation projects.
Energy Management is also the developer of Cape Wind, which will consist of 130 3.6-megawatt offshore wind turbines with a total capacity of 468 megawatts. That project will be located in federal waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The two Rockland-owned properties total about 18 acres and are next to the Maine Eastern Railroad line. The city properties also are near the city’s Industrial Park on Thomaston Street.
The 270 Pleasant St. site is assessed at $1,064,000. Rockland paid $800,000 for the City Hall property in 1995. The public works property is assessed at $304,000.
Chaousis said other than a few ideas being tossed around, there have been no formal discussions by city officials about where City Hall or public services would be relocated. He said if the sale moves forward, there would be a search.
Any sale of city property must go before the City Council and be voted on twice with a public hearing before it could be completed. No timeline has been determined. The city manager said that the discussions will be inclusive and transparent.
The city manager said the city properties, which are zoned for industrial use, are underutilized.
In November 2013, then-Community Development Director John Holden said Rockland, in general, had limited areas for future commercial development. One area where there was potential for development is the west side of the city near the Thomaston line where City Hall and public works are located, Holden concluded.
Rockland bought the City Hall property in 1995 from Camden-Rockland Water Co. and renovated the office building before moving into it in March 1996. Before than, City Hall was located in the train station.
The city has owned the public works property since 1962. City officials have tried twice to get voter approval for a new public works garage without success. The most recent rejection came in November 2011, when residents voted 895-881 against borrowing $2.9 million. The city had discussed building a new garage on city-owned land near the solid waste facilities.