Our Turn: Focus turns to the future at Concord Steam

  • The Concord Steam Corporation plant on Pleasant Street at night.

Published: 8/20/2016 12:15:00 AM

Who knew? Who knew that after 78 years of Concord Steam Corp. serving the downtown community, we’d be shutting the doors? Certainly none of us here on the “steam team” thought that would ever be the case.

We have always viewed our place here in downtown Concord as more of a community service than a business. We have valued the relationships that we’ve built with the business community and the city of Concord, and have fought hard to maintain those relationships over the past several years.

That being said, most know we’ve struggled to maintain a business model that makes sense for both Concord and the owners of Concord Steam. Unfortunately, due to circumstances that neither Concord Steam nor the downtown business community could control, we are all facing a future without Concord Steam as an institution of the downtown.

Certainly a sad day for all of us here at Concord Steam, as the door closes on what was a wonderful and unique business that helped make downtown Concord the special place that it truly is.

It has indeed been a difficult journey these past few years, as we’ve made every effort possible to carry on this rich tradition, but it is time for change to take place and for the city of Concord to move into a new era.

Change is often difficult, and we certainly understand that it is not easy for the downtown business community, the city of Concord or Concord Steam employees. However, we do believe that this necessary change is going to be made much easier, smoother and more beneficial to all of us in the Concord community by the fact that Liberty Utilities has decided to partner with us in order to effect that change in a positive manner.

How difficult has this been? Difficult enough that one of our own employees has made inaccurate statements in a letter to the editor regarding the agreement with Liberty Utilities.

Everyone knows that strongly felt loyalties can, and often do, give rise to misunderstandings. The truth of the matter is that we approached Liberty Utilities and requested their help to find a workable solution to a difficult situation. We have found them very honest and forthright about all of the challenges and costs that would be associated with making this transition.

In fact, Liberty Utilities worked with us to structure the agreement so we can continue to use wood chips when it is more economic than buying natural gas on the spot market, which will save our customers money.

Contrary to what others have written and have said, Liberty hasn’t seen this as a mere business opportunity or as a way to monopolize energy service to Concord Steam customers.

Concord Steam customers will still have a number of energy options available to them to use for heating. We happen to believe that natural gas makes the most sense for our existing customers by providing a low-cost, clean and safe option. We believe that Liberty Utilities, like Concord Steam before them, sees this as more of an opportunity to carry on the tradition of community service that Concord has grown used to.

We appreciate the hard work and effort that Liberty Utilities has put into trying to make this necessary transition as painless as possible for all involved.

They, with us, left no leaf unturned looking for every possible scenario that would help the downtown community accomplish the goal. What is that goal? It is to ensure every business and government building that is part of our system has low-cost, reliable energy service for the foreseeable future.

We encourage the downtown community to join us and see this transition as new opportunity for the downtown to grow, as we look to a bright future for our beloved city.

(Peter Bloomfield is the president of Concord Steam. Mark Saltsman is vice president.)

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