Board revives plan to boost energy efficiency

Oberacker

Otsego County will seek to revive an energy-saving project across its properties, six months after the coronavirus pandemic scuttled it.

The county’s Board of Representatives approved a $2 million project with Trane, a heating/air conditioning and energy project company, in January 2020, only to see it paused months later when the pandemic began to effect the county’s budget.

A pause on all capital projects was among the austerity measures county officials took during the summer to address a shortfall in sales and bed tax revenues and a loss of state aid.

The Trane project had been in development for about two years at that point. The project includes a six-point list of needs to be addressed: lighting upgrades, building envelope improvements, building automation upgrades, plug-load controls, water conservation and the replacement of heavy equipment, some of which is deemed 30 years past its useful life.

Trane project manager Greg Royer addressed the board’s Public Works Committee at a special meeting Monday, Oct. 5, which was held via Zoom. He said Trane projects a 20-year budget-neutral upgrade of the county systems and Trane will guarantee its savings projections, which are about $90,000 per year.

The project would be bonded on a term of 20 years; the current rate is 3.39%, Royer said. Because construction would not begin until 2021 and repayment on the bond is delayed until 12 months after the project is complete, the 2021 budget would be unaffected, he said, and the county would have the results of a year’s savings in energy and maintenance costs for offsets by the time it did have payment costs.

“We look at this as a capital cost avoidance,” Royer said. “It is something you have to do, otherwise, really you’re going to put the county at risk if you don’t do this. Because do you have a contingency plan on where you are going to put all those employees if the system fails when we’re 30 years past useful life on that system?”

Public Works Chair Pete Oberacker, R-Decatur, Maryland, Westford, Worcester, said he wanted to give Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles and county lawyers a chance to review the materials. He said he would bring all the stakeholders back at the next public works meeting, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, to make final recommendations on the project for the full board to revisit the issue.

The committee members also said they wanted the county to appoint a project manager to oversee the day-to-day implementation of the project.

Oberacker also briefed the Board of Representatives on the plan at its meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 7, also held via Zoom. Both meetings can be viewed on Otsego County’s Facebook page.

Oberacker said he wants to bring the project back to the full board for a vote to reapprove it and he hopes that vote can take place in November. If it is approved, the project can start at the beginning of the year, Royer said, and it would take three to six months to complete.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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