CHESTER — Back in November 2023, Eversource Energy offered to buy the electric utility assets of the Chester Municipal Electric Light Department, and as the town recently made the details of the deal public, the buzz around the potential deal has only increased.

Paul Renaud, a vice president at Eversource, proposed the acquisition to Andy Myers of the Chester Energy Committee. If the town agrees, what is currently a small, municipally owned utility would become part of Eversource, a publicly traded company that serves about 4 million electric and natural gas customers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

The proposed purchase price of $203,985 is based on an evaluation of CMELD’s financial statements from 2021, including the net balance of the utility plant, depreciation, and contributions for construction. The deal would also provide the town of Chester $1,674,184, combining the purchase price and existing funds.

Eversource’s acquisition is expected to increase Chester’s annual property tax income by about $30,000 to $40,000, as a for-profit utility would have to pay taxes on its assets.

If approved by residents via Town Meeting vote, all residential and general service electric accounts currently managed by CMELD would be transferred to Eversource, which may lead to changes in pricing for Chester’s residents.

Town Administrator Donald Humason Jr. said the potential sale “has been an extremely hot topic ever since it came up.” He said town officials are committed to being transparent as they weigh the pros and cons.

“We’re really at the earliest phase of the process,” Humason said. He said Chester residents “will be included in everything we do.”

Humason said CMELD and Eversource plan to host a public hearing to solicit feedback from ratepayers and residents. He acknowledged that many in the community have a strong attachment to CMELD.

“Chester Electric, small as it is, has a good reputation [that] a lot of people in town are fiercely protective of,” Humason said, but there’s curiosity about what Eversource might offer. He continued, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we can look at what the other guy offers?”

According to Humason, selling the town-owned utility would require affirmative votes at two separate Town Meetings, “and if it doesn’t pass the first time, it doesn’t get a second chance.”

Eversource has committed to offering jobs to CMELD’s line workers, ensuring a smooth transition. In addition to Town Meeting, the acquisition would require approvals from the Chester Board of Selectmen and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Eversource has highlighted its experience in similar acquisitions and regulatory processes.

The company plans to invest in Chester’s energy infrastructure to improve service reliability and safety, citing its financial strength and operational record. Operations in Chester would be run from an existing Eversource office in Hadley, which is open 24 hours a day, with additional resources available from Pittsfield or Springfield as needed.

The offer includes constructing more distribution facilities for better service reliability and introducing energy efficiency programs for Chester residents. It aims to integrate Chester into its network, which includes all of Chester’s bordering towns, benefiting from economies of scale in operations and maintenance, technological advancement and customer service.

The company will conduct further analysis to determine the potential impact on rates for Chester residents.

The Chester Energy Committee will evaluate Eversource’s proposal, considering the long-term impact on service quality, rates, and local control over energy infrastructure. The committee’s role includes negotiating terms and engaging with the community for feedback.

Dennis Hohenberger
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