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October 10, 2008

 

Energy audit suggests county upgrades

Legislators unsure if they will invest $1.1 million to make buildings more efficient

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

An energy audit of county buildings has recommended new boilers and lighting and air-conditioning systems for the Cortland County Office Building, the Public Safety Building, the Courthouse, the airport and the highway department.
The New York Power Authority completed a feasibility study of the proposed energy management project in September.
The total project is projected to cost the county $1.1 million with payback in energy savings for the county returnable in up to 17 years.
The county Building and Grounds Committee is reviewing the findings of the feasibility study and will submit recommendations to NYPA about what they would like included in the project. They could approve NYPA’s suggestions and draw up a resolution at the Nov. 4 committee meeting to be voted on by the full Legislature in November.
Officials are concerned about funding the project given the current economic climate.
Legislator Chad Loomis (D-8th Ward) said, “We have to look at the budget and how it pans out for the New York economy. It’s a good long-term effort for us but we need to look at things from a county funding perspective.”
County Administrator Scott Schrader said he needs a better idea from NYPA of the interest rates the county would be offered during the 10-year payment plan.
Schrader wants a flat interest rate to be assured for the duration of the payment.
“The issue for me is the cost or the use of the money,” Schrader said. He added that paying for the renovations over 10 years is not beneficial if the savings are not yielded until 17 years.
“If we are paying off in 10 years we are using new money to pay it off,” he said.
NYPA would design all the components of the project: writing specs for the new equipment, planning the scope of work and planning demolition. These design plans would be submitted for the county’s review and if approved the project would go out to bid.
Should the Legislature approve the recommendations, the next step would be for NYPA to draw up the design plans and submit them for the county’s review.
Dave Laney, Conservation Program engineer for NYPA, presented the findings of the feasibility study at Tuesday’s Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting.
Laney gave a rough time frame for the work if the county approves the feasibility study’s findings. NYPA could complete the design plans by late February, submit them for final review, and then construction could potentially start September 2009 and be completed by July 2010.
Laney said that even though 17 years is a long time for the county to see a payback on its energy savings, given all the components of the project, it is usually cost prohibitive for public entities to do the work piece meal.
Laney said the feasibility study was conducted by NYPA engineers who surveyed the existing equipment and collected energy efficiency data.
The recommendations included installing lighting occupancy sensors and energy efficient lights in the highway department, airport, Public Safety Building, County Office Building and Courthouse. The study also recommends replacing the 30-year-old boilers and air-conditioning units in the County Office Building.
“The existing air conditioning unit is about 30 years old and that is the end of its useful life,” Laney said.
Schrader said he will consider alternative ways of doing the upgrades if NYPA’s plan is not the most cost effective. He mentioned a state energy research and authority (NYSERDA) program that offers lowered interest rates to participants.
Legislator Thomas Hartnett (D-4th Ward) said he thinks there are still too many unanswered questions for him to approve the study.
“The big thing is the interest rate. There are too many unanswered questions there,” Hartnett said. He said he is also concerned about the 17-year time frame for energy savings to be yielded.
“Is it worth it? Are we spending money to spend money?” he asked. He said he does not consider the report full since questions were also raised about perhaps generating savings through other measures such as thermostat regulation in various parts of the buildings.
“I want more information. There are too many questions out there for me to even think about considering this,” Hartnett said.

 

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