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Finance considers energy efficiency, new supervisor

January 24, 2014

Matt Echelberry


mechelberry@civitasmedia.com


Efficiency Smart and its energy conservation program was discussed during the Jan. 22 Finance Committee meeting.


Mayor Tom O’Leary introduced the presentation by explaining that Galion’s contract for the program expired at the end of 2013. While it automatically renews, he invited representatives to the meeting to go over changes with the contract and answer questions.


Efficiency Smart is a not-for-profit company that specializes in smart energy solutions, in order to lower electric bills for residential, commercial and industrial customers.


“Galion made a smart investment,” said Carl Andre, director of business development for Efficiency Smart. He explained that Efficiency Smart took the money the city gave to it, and the program returned three times that amount back to the community through energy savings.


Committee Chair Tom Fellner asked how Efficiency Smart is associated with American Municipal Power.


“We are not associated with AMP specifically. We are actually a division of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation,” Andre responded. AMP has a contract with VEIC to administer an energy efficiency program, fulfilled through Efficiency Smart. The contract is contingent upon satisfactory performance.


Randy Corbin, project manager for energy efficiency at AMP, was also on hand. He added that his company contracted with Efficiency Smart in 2010, after its decision to close the Gorsech Plant when the EPA gave a violation notice.


All of the Gorsech project participants (including Galion) were charged a fine by the EPA. The Efficiency Smart program was offered to those participants, and because it offsets carbon dioxide emissions, the participants received a lower fine and could do the program in lieu of paying the fine. Corbin said all fines and mitigation for the Gorsech Plant will conclude next month.


The new contract with Efficiency Smart will be different if Galion decides to continue participation. There will be an up front cost, which Corbin said will be recuperated from the energy savings customers will experience, and the city would buy less electricity overall.


O’Leary was skeptical as to how that was possible. The conversation then got technical.


Later, Corbin and Andre highlighted some of the successes Galion has had since 2011. Customers like Galion, LLC; Covert Manufacturing; and Galion City Schools have taken advantage of energy efficiency projects, with more projects coming. For residents, Efficiency Smart offers rebates for appliances, recycling incentives and free giveaways.


Through all of Efficiency Smart’s programs, Galion has seen an actual annual savings of approximately $421,999. Andre noted they use an independent firm to check the work and ensure savings for customers.


Corbin further explained that 35-40 percent of the money they receive is given back to communities through incentives. They also offer highly-valued technical expertise. He said some participants, such as Bowling Green and Hudson, use the program as an economic development tool on the promise of lowering electric usage for businesses.


The city has until the end of March to decide if it wants to renew the contract. If it does, it is eligible for a grant in the minimum amount of $45,000, which can be used for various energy projects. It can renew the contract any time after that but would not receive the grant. Corbin said 26 of 49 communities have renewed so far.


The committee decided to send the issue to Council for further consideration. Businesses interested in learning more about the energy saving programs should visit Efficiency Smart’s website, www.efficiencysmart.org.


Other agenda items


The Finance Committee had several other items on the agenda that evening. The mayor requested adding the position of Service Department Supervisor to the staffing ordinance. The position would oversee crews in several areas, including the Street and Line departments.


“By not staffing management right, we’ve been saving nickels and we lose dollars. We can’t manage our resources properly,” O’Leary commented. He added that none of the service crews have an adequate staff, so having a supervisor is the best way to coordinate tasks and allow the crews to do the most “meaningful work.”


The committee requested legislation. If the position is approved, Council will not need to amend the budget to accommodate the position; the salary can be paid with existing appropriations.


It also requested legislation to approve a utility pole relocation project, in preparation of the 598 widening.


O’Leary explained that all poles located within the construction site will be moved, which will be about eight days of work. Federal Highway funds will reimburse the city. He noted they cannot delay the construction project or the city will be required to pay.


Two letters of support for grant applications were considered. One was for renovation work at Galion East Apartments and the other was for The Noah Project’s proposal for Eden Place. Both projects are applying for OHFA funding.


Fellner and Committee member Mike Richart voted to send both requests to council for discussion. In the meantime, the mayor agreed to contact OHFA to find out if the city could endorse both projects.


Next, a proposal was presented to hire engineering firm GPD Group to extract data readings at the electric substations and show city employees how to pull the data on a regular basis. O’Leary explained the city wants to find when surges and dips in electricity occur and then look at what causes them.


Some Then and Now certificates will go to council for the Jan. 28 meeting. City Auditor Brian Treisch also said Council will need to make a total of roughly $50,000 in adjustments for various funds in the budget.


Four union contracts were presented during Council’s most recent executive session. The committee approved them to go back to Council as legislation.


The mayor updated the committee on the Carbon Vision proposal that was presented to the Utilities Committee last summer. During that meeting, O’Leary said it was described as a “free” energy efficiency review of Galion’s street lighting and city-owned buildings.


Upon further discussion, however, the review was free but contracts for any resulting projects would go to Carbon Vision. O’Leary was concerned about the city not being able to place projects up for bid.


The committee members wondered if Efficiency Smart could conduct the same type of study, but ultimately decided to send a resolution to Council for further consideration.


The Finance Committee will hold meetings on the third Wednesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. Its next meeting is Feb. 19.