County initiates energy evaluation

By Rosemary Horvath

An energy service company owned by United Technologies identified problem areas at three Clare County buildings that drain the operations budget.

Dave Corner of NORESCO estimated the company could save the county $120,000 a year “in pure energy savings and operations” at the county building, jail and animal control facilities.

He’d target heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, control upgrades, lighting improvements, the elevator needing either upgrades or better yet replacing, and excessive water usage, among other things.

The new boilers the county installed several years ago have required constant maintenance repairs that haven’t been cheap, said County Administrator Tracey Byard.

NORESCO solicits bids from local contractors who the county commissioners chose to hire to install equipment. NORESCO oversees and guarantees the work, along with the amount of savings for the county. If the amount is not realized, NORESCO promises to pay the difference.

NORESCO is vendor neutral, Corner said, and is not in the business of selling products.

The company made a proposal to the county board four years ago that commissioners at the time turned down.

Byard advised setting up a committee to review the options. Commissioner Jack Kleinhardt recommended including the wing of the County Building currently occupied by the health department. When that department moves to its new building, commissioners will have to decide which of the county offices or some other renter moves in.

After much discussion, commissioners agreed to allow NORESCO to move forward with the first step of requesting proposals from qualified vendors.

There is no charge to the county until the board decides to sign contracts.

In other business at the March board meeting, Community Development/Senior Services Director Lori Ware listed accomplishments for the last year.

In addition to issuing loans to rehabilitate houses totaling $167,000, she spoke of the long term controversy over flood insurance charged Budd Lake property owners.

Ware’s department oversees flood plain management in the county and has fostered several intergovernmental agreements with townships.

At one time many Budd Lake’s residential subdivisions were designated inside a flood zone resulting in very high insurance rates for owners.

Ware investigated and reworked maps to show how only eight homes could be impacted from flooding. She said this saved millions of dollars for other property owners.

As for the senior services program, the projected number of persons served has been exceeded, Ware said. She may find additional funding but, if not, the program may have to institute a waiting list.

As Kleinhardt pointed out, the population of the county is aging and demand will continue to grow. Ware said even though the total population decreased by a thousand people in the last census, the number of people age 60 and older increased by 24 percent or 800 more.

“But our funding is based on the overall population,” she said. “We have doubled the number of seniors.”

She said the Office of Services to the Aging sets the funding formula. “The state had this perfect little formula and now it isn’t perfect anymore.”

In other business, the board:

LEARNED no one applied to serve on a county planning commission. Commissioner Karen Lipovsky said rather than let the concept die to advertise one more month and take formal action in April.

AGREED with Commissioner Kleinhardt to discuss options for courthouse security even if it requires having a special meeting. He and board Chairman Rick LaBoda favor brainstorming ideas and include the space the health department will vacate. Commissioners will have to look at offices where there are no exit doors or windows, namely the administrator’s office.  Commissioner Leonard Strouse said he has not been against courthouse security but he did dislike a proposal offered by the courts. He’d like to have court offices bring other suggestions to the board. Commissioner Jim Gelios favors having sheriff deputies or bailiffs seated at a desk located at the end of the court corridor.  Gelios pushed commissioners to come up with a recommendation.

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