ruffles

Ruffles

Otsego County's Board of Representatives unanimously approved a $2.1 million energy upgrade plan that had been delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic at its end-of-the-year meeting Monday, Dec. 14.

The meeting was held via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic and can be viewed on the county's Facebook channel. 

The plan bonds about $900,000 with J.P Morgan Chase and the rest with Trane, the heating and air conditioning company that is doing the upgrades. Chase offered the lowest rate on the project. 

According to information provided by Otsego County Treasurer Allen Ruffles to the Public Works Committee last week, the loan with Chase covers the larger rooftop equipment on the county's buildings, some of which is more than 50 years old. The loan will be paid off over three years, he said. 

The approval followed a meeting of the county's Public Works Committee, which voted unanimously twice Thursday, Dec. 10, to approve motions allowing Treasurer Allen Ruffles to sign letters of intent on loans for the project.

County officials had been in talks to revive the project because the HVAC equipment is so old that, in many cases, parts are no longer available for the county's systems. Repair people with knowledge of 50-year old heating and air conditioning equipment are hard to find, too, county officials have said.

Ruffles said Thursday he would sign a letter of intent on a loan with Trane for the large part of the project, which includes upgrading lighting in county buildings to LED, doing building envelope improvements, establishing automation to control all systems more easily, adding load control for items which are always plugged in and water conservation efforts.

Ruffles said the Trane-financed part of the project would be at a 2.75% rate for 13 years, with an annual payment of about $106,000. However, he said the county's loan obligations on jail repairs would be fulfilled in 2021 and the county could apply the money it has been paying on that bond to the Trane bond to pay it off in three or four years.

The other part of the project, involving rooftop HVAC units, will be bonded with Chase, Ruffles said, at a 1.27% rate for three years.

The project does not include the county's transportation department facilities.

Representatives from Trane have previously told county officials the project can be completed in three to four months.

The mid-December board meeting is held annually to wrap up yearly business including, in better financial years, spending surplus funds. However, with the pandemic draining sales and bed tax revenue and the state withholding aid in many departments, 2020 ended with no surplus. 

In other action Monday:

• The board hired Garth Brown as the county's new director of building services. The board unanimously approved Brown's hiring after an executive session of more than two hours dedicated to interviewing candidates for the position. 

"I'd say we had a couple of good candidates," Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, said. "The (public works) committee did a lot of investigating. I think and made the choice they felt was best at the time." 

• Board members also created and filled a temporary position at the transfer station, a junior accountant position in the treasurer's office, a payroll and benefits coordinator, a part-time district attorney and a motor vehicle clerk.

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

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