By Rosemary Horvath
The Clare County Transit Corporation may not be the only energy efficient facility in Hayes Township.
Supervisor Terry Acton said if the township moves forward with a proposed project and finds installing a geothermal heating and cooling system feasible, payback on the investment is estimated at eight years.
A solar panel array had been considered but there are no grants available to help defray costs, Acton said.
The Transit Board had considered wind turbines at one time but went with a solar array. Installation was completed last year. Images are posted at www.clarecountytransit.org along with a link to graphs showing real-time energy generated by the day.
The set up is similar to an array providing energy at Dow Diamond ballpark in Midland.
Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored below ground. Life of a system is estimated 40 years.
Ten vertical wells 300 feet deep would be drilled for the township’s project.
Geothermal energy is an option township officials are investigating for a new complex that got underway late last year.
Goudreau & Associates of Mount Pleasant performed a feasibility study on whether to remodel the aging Civic Center or replace it with a new building.
Officials decided on a remodel with additions for an industrial commercial kitchen at one end and space for township offices at the other. The gym space would be completely updated.
The current Township Hall will be razed and the Community Center on Grant Road offered for sale.
Action added that the township park on Fir Road also will be up for sale.
Everything related to township government will be centrally located at the 17-acre East Townline Lake Road, across from Wilson State Park, including soccer fields, park and pavilion.
“This will be one municipal complex that will be easier for the township to maintain,” Acton said.
Architectural concept is nearly complete and bidding should begin in July.
Officials are comfortable with the township’s ability to afford the project as long as it does not exceed the $2.6 million budget, Acton said. “Can we afford it? USDA Rural Development is comfortable saying we can.”
Grants are available for building a commercial kitchen and installing a backup generator “because the building will be an emergency shelter,” the supervisor explained.
There is also a grant intended for a security system.
A series of public meetings were held on top of regular township meetings in which the topic is discussed.
According to Acton, response from the community “is overwhelming” although it was slow in coming at the beginning. The township provided residents with a survey of questions to complete. Details were outlined at public meetings.
Most recently, copies of petitions were made available at the town hall either for people to sign or for people to circulate gathering signatures opposing the project.
“We ran a quarter-page ad for seven straight weeks in the Cleaver letting people know petitions were at the hall.”
The township had to choose a publication closest to the community geographically.
Action further pledges to call a town hall meeting when the bids are opened. If bids go overbudget, “then we will have to decide what to sacrifice,” he said.