Council seeks more info on city energy improvements
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Some newer Glenwood Springs City Council members want to know where the money is coming from before agreeing to the next round of energy-saving improvements in city buildings.
Council delayed a decision last week on whether to appropriate another $1.1 million to implement energy efficiency improvements at city hall, city fire stations, the municipal operations center and the water treatment plant.
The money, which would primarily come from utility reserve funds, would also be used to pay for more efficient street light fixtures around Glenwood Springs.
“I’d like to see what’s sitting in our different reserve funds before we start appropriating that money,” Councilman Ted Edmonds said at the May 5 council meeting. “In terms of fiscal responsibility, I’m not comfortable spending that money at this time.”
The proposed projects would be done under an energy performance contract with Siemens Industry, Inc., serving as the Energy Services Company (ESCO) to hire out and oversee the work.
Energy performance contracting is a financing method used by governments and commercial property owners to make capital improvements that are intended to achieve savings in energy use.
The idea is that the improvements will pay for themselves over time through savings in utility bills and other operation costs. In agreeing to do the work, a qualified ESCO makes an energy savings guarantee that’s included in the contract.
In Glenwood Springs’ case, the payback on the initial investment would be roughly 14 years, according to the proposal.
The work would be in follow-up to about $237,000 worth of improvements already made at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, and is intended to further the goals outlined in the city’s 2009 Climate Action Plan.
The improvements were initiated through the city’s work with the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative, now known as Garfield Clean Energy. Similar performance contracting is under way in Carbondale and Rifle, as well as Garfield County government.
Edmonds and two other new Glenwood City Council members, Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba, ran for council this spring on a platform of controlling city spending.
Gamba was not at the May 5 meeting, but Leahy joined Edmonds in questioning the upfront costs of the energy improvements.
“In this environment, and this economy, I would say this needs to be done at a later date,” Leahy said.
Mayor Matt Steckler also had reservations.
“I am uncomfortable moving forward on this now, given the state of our budget,” he said.
However, he also said it might be helpful if the new council members were brought up to speed on the Climate Action Plan.
The plan contains several goals that the city government can pursue to reduce not only its own energy costs, but to do the city’s part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to reviewing those goals, council also asked city staff to provide more information on the fiscal impact of doing the work. Consideration of the performance contract was postponed until the May 19 meeting.
Some council members said the payback is reasonable, and that the city should proceed with the second phase of the energy improvements.
“I’m OK with tabling this, but we’ve already committed a lot of money to this,” Councilman Leo McKinney said. “I don’t see the value in starting something and then not seeing it through.
“I understand the concern about depleting reserves,” he added. “But this is exactly the kind of thing reserves are there for.”
Councilman Dave Sturges asked city staff and energy consultant Dan Richardson, who works with the Governor’s Energy Office, to also recommend some energy-saving options that would cost less than spending the full $1.1 million.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.