Representatives from Altaeros Energies presented to the Select Board on Tuesday about their company and discussed the possibility of relocating to South Street if it was able to receive support via a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement, special permits and other incentives.
The board approved Town Manager Norman Khumalo to open negotiations with the company.
Altaeros designs and builds aerostats — hot air balloon-style airships that can carry a payload such as a telecom radio. The company’s head office is in Somerville, while its research and development center is in Fremont, New Hampshire.
“We’re the only company to develop and manufacture autonomous aerostats” that are maneuvered by software and can make adjustments based on factors such as weather, explained Chief Financial Officer Ike Okonkwo.
Okonkwo indicated an aerostat could be used to supply public WiFi during an event such as the Boston Marathon or provide backup WiFi in the case of an emergency such as a hurricane. It also is used for military purposes, such as providing information on troop and weapons locations.
The company indicated it would invest $30 million-$50 million in a former Dell EMC building that has been vacant and create at least 180 jobs over the next five years, with an average annual salary of $165,000.
Altaeros also is looking at sites in Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Brockton and New Hampshire and plans to make a decision by this December, Okonkwo said, noting that Hopkinton’s appeal was its location off Interstate 495 and the availability of a building that could suit its needs.
Altaeros President/Chief Operating Officer Eric Whitman noted that the company already is producing the airships but is looking to ramp up production at a new facility.
“We’re very excited about the product,” he said. “We can’t wait to get going with it. We want to see them out there.”
Schools rooftop solar agreement moves forward
Hopkinton Public Schools Director of Finance Susan Rothermich presented on a power purchase agreement with Solect Energy Development to install rooftop photovoltaic projects at Hopkins School, the middle school and the high school.
The board voted unanimously to authorize the town manager to sign the lease agreement.
The agreement is for 20 years and allows Solect to rent the space on the rooftops at no cost and with no personal property tax in exchange for a discounted rate on electricity passed on to the schools. The company will pay real property tax.
Rothermich explained that in the first year of the deal, the town is projected to save approximately $33,000 at Hopkins, $48,500 at the middle school and $21,700 at the high school. Over the 20-year term, the town is forecast to save a total of about $2.5 million.
Town Manager Norman Khumalo explained that with the panels, Hopkinton would pay a maximum of 12 cents a kilowatt, as opposed to 22 cents without. He added that no Town Meeting vote is required.
“This is a substantial savings for the town,” Khumalo said.
New firefighter welcomed
Fire Chief Bill Miller introduced new firefighter Conor Sayles, who was hired from the Hopedale Fire Department.
A 2016 graduate of Worcester State College, Sayles started as a call firefighter in Hopedale in 2015 and is a certified paramedic.
“I definitely get an enjoyment out of doing what I love, and I love the job I do,” Sayles said. …
Misc.: West Main Street to get barrier
Khumalo said the town plans to install a barrier down the middle of West Main Street between the two gas stations, where accidents are a regular occurrence. The barrier will prevent drivers leaving the stations from making a left turn across traffic. He indicated Cumberland Farms is not pleased with the decision. …
The town’s latest water test indicated a PFAS reading above the maximum allowed by the state, Khumalo reported. He said the town continues to move forward with the proposed connection to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pipeline via Southborough. The MWRA is waiving the connection fee for towns with PFAS issues, which will save the town about $11.7 million, Khumalo added. …
The board voted to approve the senior means-tested tax exemption at the maximum allowed amount of 200 percent. Principal Assessor John Neas said 24 applications have been received by the town, with 20 having been approved this far by the Board of Assessors. …
The board accepted the resignation of Jennifer Reed from the Hopkinton Youth Commission.