By CG Editor-in-Chief Erich Hiner
An ordinance awaiting vote by Athens City Council could add more than $400,000 worth of energy-saving upgrades to city buildings at little or no cost to taxpayers.
The proposed ordinance, introduced Monday by Athens City Councilman Elahu Gosney, D-at large, would allow city funds to be used for energy upgrades at the Athens Community Center, the city parking garage, the city code office and city hall.
Gosney said the upgrades would help Athens save money by making city buildings more energy efficient. He and Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl said it is unlikely the upgrades would increase taxes or create any new fees.
“It probably won’t affect citizens whatsoever,” Wiehl said. “It’s seamless.”
Proposed upgrades include energy-saving light fixtures, programmable thermostats and double-pane windows. The bulk of the upgrades would be at the community center, which would get a new heating and cooling system and water-saving bath fixtures under the ordinance.
The projected cost of the upgrades is $417,380. Most of that sum would come from a one-year, $300,000 loan. The rest would be taken from the city’s existing general funds.
Gosney said the project will pay for itself in eight years if it is approved, adding that the upgrades would save citizens money in the long term by cutting city energy bills.
“We’re going to be saving a substantial amount of money,” Gosney said. “Over the next 15 years, we will save roughly $400,000 from this investment in excess of what it cost us.”
The proposed upgrades are based off an energy efficiency assessment of Athens city buildings made by Cincinnati-based Perfection Group, Inc. If the ordinance is approved, Athens will grant Perfection an exclusive contract to install the improvements.
The company’s projections show that the community center alone would save 297,441 kilowatt hours of electricity every year with the upgrades. Gosney said actual savings should be higher because Perfection guarantees the savings and estimates conservatively.
Gosney, who chairs the Athens City Council Environment Committee, said the benefits of the project would not only be financial. The upgrades would cut the community center’s carbon dioxide emissions by 469,957 pounds per year, according to Perfection’s written estimates. That is equivalent to planting 48.5 acres of trees or removing 39 cars from the road, according to the estimates.
Gosney said he does not foresee any changes or opposition to the ordinance. Council will most likely vote on the measure when it meets Nov. 1. If the ordinance passes, work on the community center could be complete as soon as February or March.
The ordinance is the first part of a larger energy-saving project. Future upgrades could be made to the Athens Waste Water Treatment Plant and the city bus garage among other facilities.