Phillipston finds funds for Town Hall generator

  • Left to right: Phillipston Selectboard Chair Bernie Malouin, Vice Chair Gerhard Fandreyer and Thom Daoust speak with residents at the Selectboard's meeting on Wednesday, June 30. Staff photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 7/2/2021 5:17:23 PM
Modified: 7/2/2021 5:17:29 PM

PHILLIPSTON — An unexpected windfall gave the town of Phillipston just what it needed to replace the generator currently serving Town Hall. There was a lengthy discussion at the Selectboard meeting on Wednesday, June 30, regarding just what kind of generator to purchase, who to buy it from and how to pay for it. The Town Hall generator has been out since at least January.

In addition to providing power to Town Hall when needed, the generator runs the main public safety/emergency communications system. Those radios are currently running off a back-up system at the Phillipston fire station.

Phillipston Memorial Elementary School custodian Don Smith, who had looked into the matter, said he had spoken to three different dealers about a replacement. The dealers, he said, were located in Millbury, Attleboro and Fitchburg.

“The one out of Attleboro — I spent two hours with the gentleman,” said Smith. “The generator that was up there, he said he can replace the exact same one, which was an 8-kilowatt generator, which only does half the building, for $8,000. Then I never got a quote back from the guys from Millbury or from Fitchburg.

“So, I called J.P. Electric — he wasn’t even interested. He took one look at it and basically didn’t want to have anything to do with it.”

Smith said he then spoke to R. J. McDonald Inc., located in Barre.

“The one they’re offering is a Kohler 20-kilowatt, which will do the whole building,” he said. “So, at this point, just for the generator, without the installation, that one was just under seven grand.”

“This 20-kilowatt one,” asked Selectboard Member Gerhard Fandreyer, “what to you mean it will run the entire place? Really, if there’s an emergency, all we need to have running is the police radio system.”

“Well,” said Smith, “you’re paying $7,000 for 20 kilowatts, you’re paying $8,000 for 8 kilwatts. To me, it’s cheaper and you get more for less money.”

“I think,” interjected Finance Committee Chair Tom Specht, “you should go for the one that electrifies the whole building. You don’t know what may happen someday. You might want to use the whole building in an emergency.

“I know the school is being thought of and prepared to be used by the town in an emergency, but I think to have another building as a — I’ll use the term ‘command center’ — because the selectmen would be there, the fire and police would be there, all the people with anything to do with accounting and treasury work would be there.”

Fandreyer explained that if a larger capacity generator is installed, it would also require the installation of a new transfer switch “that can handle all of that load.”

“So, basically, you’d have to do an entire main breaker changeover,” he said. “You’d have to change more than just the generator to make it work on the entire building.”

Public Works Director, who had been attending to a lightning strike at Town Hall, then joined the meeting, bringing with him more detailed information from R.J. McDonald. The quote from the Barre company was $6,995 for a 20-kw generator and for a transfer switch, another $2,650 for the electrical work, including labor, for a total of $9,745. A note on the quote indicated there could be additional charges for labor.

How to pay for the unit was the next topic of discussion.

FinCom member Ruth French said some of the work could be paid for with $6,000 remaining in the committee’s reserve account. The catch was, however, the Finance Committee would have to call an emergency meeting to encumber the funds before the end of the fiscal year, which was just a little over three hours away.

An emergency meeting can be called without the 48-hour public notice normally required by state law, and a quorum of committee members was on hand if a vote was needed.

Finance Committee Clerk Linda Ellis then suggested the Selectboard use a check to the town for just over $10,000 that had been received shortly before the meeting. The money came from the town of Athol via the closing of a Community Development Block Grant. A letter accompanying the check indicated the money could be used however the Selectboard deemed fit.

The Selectboard then voted unanimously to deposit the cash into the town’s building maintenance account and to draw on that account to pay for the much-needed generator.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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