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Nashua panel favors $500k fix for hydroelectric plant

Union Leader Correspondent

September 25. 2017 9:07PM

NASHUA — The city-owned hydroelectric plant at Jackson Mills shut down after its turbine failed.

It is expected to cost about $500,000 to repair the 30-year-old turbine, according to city officials.

The broken turbine has already been removed and taken apart, said Madeleine Mineau, waterways manager for the city.

Mineau said she is confident the turbine can be fixed for less than $500,000, although she is unsure how long the turbine will last after this latest repair.

“It is not going to last forever because it is still old,” she said, explaining the turbine has already undergone a major repair that lasted about a decade. The city may get five, possibly 10 more years out of the turbine once it is repaired, predicts Mineau.

After paying Essex Power Services about $220,000 each year to take care of the hydroelectric plant, the city nets about $240,000 in revenue, Mayor Jim Donchess said.

The Jackson Mills hydroelectric facility was returned to city ownership at the end of a long-term lease in 2014, according to Donchess. It is currently operated by Essex Power Services, Inc., which handles the maintenance, operations and administration of the plant.

Donchess is recommending that the turbine be replaced; he estimated it would take a minimum of 18 months to complete the designing, engineering, manufacturing and installation.

“We need to get the dam back in operation to return to revenue generation,” Donchess told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee last week.

“Over the course of 10 years, this dam will net the city around $2.4 to $2.5 million,” he said. The $500,000 cost to fix the turbine will pay for itself within two years, the mayor said.

There is $500,000 of unbudgeted revenue — a result of Clocktower Place refinancing — that may be applied to fix the turbine.

“I think it is a great use of the funds,” said Alderman David Schoneman, Ward 3, who noted it will benefit taxpayers.

The committee is recommending that the $500,000 be placed into the city’s hydropower reserve fund to fix the turbine. The full Board of Aldermen must still vote on the proposal.

In 2013, a $1 million renovation project was completed at Jackson Mills dam in an effort to minimize future downtown flooding. Those improvements also paved the way for the Cotton Mill Square housing complex, a $26 million mixed-income housing project that includes 100 apartment units and a riverwalk.

Because of a new, adjustable crest gate built at the Jackson Mills dam at the time, 74 properties and Cotton Mill Square were eliminated from the 100-year floodplain zone in downtown Nashua.

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