By Gloria Lloyd
With another measure passed last week, Sunset Hills officials hope to make city buildings more energy-efficient through a 20-year performance contract that would fund upgrades with money guaranteed to be saved through energy efficiency.
The board has not entered into a contract yet, but voted unanimously to sign a letter of intent to authorize energy consultant Trane to conduct an investment-grade engineering audit of city systems at all four buildings in anticipation of potentially agreeing to a full contract in December.
“Obviously we anticipate moving forward,” City Administrator Eric Sterman said. “But if something comes up in the audit, we’re not authorizing spending any funds at this point.”
The same night, aldermen also unanimously agreed to enter into a $74,650 contract for design services with Laura Baebler of LNB Architecture, who is not directly related to Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler.
The consultant will design roughly $300,000 worth of aesthetic and safety improvements to City Hall, including a redesign of the aldermanic chambers and placing clerks behind glass in the lobby.
“We’re not authorizing any building, strictly design,” board President Richard Gau said.
The design funds are in the 2017 budget, but bids will go out for any eventual construction, Sterman said.
Under the proposal for improved energy efficiency Trane presented to the Board of Aldermen at a Sept. 26 special work session, the city could see an annual guaranteed net cash flow of up to $540,154 spread over 20 years by making more than $800,000 in needed upgrades to all four city buildings: City Hall, the Police Department, the Community Center and the Public Works Building.
Sterman looked into the performance contract because the HVAC system at the Police Department is budgeted to be replaced next year for $41,000, and many other aspects of the energy grid at City Hall and other buildings are so outdated they’re costing the city money in maintenance and extra utilities, he said at the Sept. 26 meeting, where aldermen seemed to favor the idea.
“So this is going to fix what we’ve got and eliminate waste?” Ward 3 Alderman Nathan Lipe said.
After a preliminary assessment of city facilities, Jennifer Gray of Trane agreed.
“We believe there’s opportunity to leverage energy savings over a 15-year period,” she said. “And this minimizes all risk to the city — we’re required to reimburse the city if savings don’t materialize.”
The preliminary plan would upgrade all lighting on the City Hall campus to LEDs, upgrade heaters at the police station, make thermostats controllable through the internet, and modernize and automate the technology so that thermostats aren’t running at night and are generally more efficient, Sterman said.
The money for it all would come through the city financing $806,000 at 3.35 percent interest, which would translate to $65,000 in guaranteed energy savings and $23,000 saved in maintenance and service costs, for a total annual savings of $81,000, Gray said.
That cost includes the $41,000 cost to replace the police HVAC system that the city was set to pay this year anyway.