Warrant Article 21: Library HVAC System to Help Town Meet Net Zero Goals Needs Two-Third Majority

Town meeting will decide Saturday on a proposed $2.5 million state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system for the Bedford Free Public Library.

The upgrade was recommended by a 2019 design study and was among the articles indefinitely postponed by the streamlined 2020 annual town meeting. The current article 21 will be financed by bonding and thus requires at least a two-thirds majority vote for approval.

Original plans called for replacing the boilers and rooftop cooling tower for about $1.5 million. That plan was revised to feature an energy-efficient variable refrigerant flow system, adding $1 million to the cost.

This reflects the town’s commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through new technology, said Facilities Director Taissir Alani.

The proposed multi-zoned HVAC system will shift most or all heating energy to electric, which is generated by renewable resources, Alani said.  The current energy source is natural gas.

Updating the equipment to meet net-zero goals is going to save the town money in the long run, Alani pointed out, since the state will mandate virtual net-zero compliance by 2050.

“That’s why we created our 10-year energy plan as we renovate buildings,” he explained. “At some point, we have to start to meet the goal – you can’t wait until 2045 and do all the buildings.”

The original 15,000-square-foot library building is more than 50 years old. The 1999 renovation and addition added another 20,000 square feet.

“For the lowest possible heating cost, small-size gas boilers are proposed to be used for all heating in the 1999 section and the perimeter of the 1968 section,” Alani said. “Electric backup boilers are proposed that can be used to shift to 100 percent renewable electric energy.”

Alani said the overall operating cost between the existing system and the new system is negligible. The objective is reduced use of fossil fuels, but it’s not going to cost more to run the system, he said.

If the article is approved, Alani said, the design will take up to six months, with construction likely to begin early in 2022. Construction will take up to a year, but should not impact library operations, he said. “We will explore various options” on scheduling construction.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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