Quincy Finance Committee tables energy-savings proposals

Posted: Jan. 8, 2013 4:03 pm Updated: Jan. 22, 2013 5:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Proposals to improve several Quincy city facilities to potentially save on long-range energy costs are being shelved.

Three companies submitted proposals on dozens of infrastructure improvements last summer that representatives said would save the city between $350,000 and $750,000 annually in energy-related costs. However, the city would have to spend between $4 million and $9.5 million on upgrades to achieve those savings, money it would have to finance for up to 20 years.

The Quincy Finance Committee tabled further discussions on the proposals Monday night after Utility Director David Kent said the plan his department already is following on upgrades to the water filtration and wastewater treatment plants would cost the city less in the long run.

Alderman Steve Duesterhaus, D-2, said he didn't believe there were enough other projects in the proposals that would make moving forward now feasible if utility facilities are not included.

"Everything that is left is small things and things that we've actually started doing as far as building heating," Duesterhaus said. "Until streetlights become a factor here, we don't have much to work with."

The second-largest part of the plans submitted by Siemens, Trane and CTS Group involved upgrading the bulbs in the city's 3,000 streetlights. However, City Engineer Jeff Steinkamp said the Illinois Department of Transportation has not approved an LED bulb for such use, a requirement for state roads.

"I think we have some leeway on maybe some of our residential streets. We also have some opportunities with our historic lights," Steinkamp said, noting that about 10 percent of the city's streetlights are a historical variety in the downtown.

"We own and maintain the historic lights. The rest of the lights, except for a few here and there, are Ameren's. To get them to change to LEDs, there has to be a cooperation or partnership with them."

Alderman Paul Havermale, R-3, said the city might have to consider rebidding the project or do a project similar to the $1.3 million heating and air-conditioning renovations in 2008 at City Hall.

"The only part of the project that's been proposed so far that we know could save us money is things like we did in City Hall -- addressing building issues, insulation issues or energy efficiencies," Havermale said.

The City Hall project involved replacing the old boiler with two new boilers and new rooftop units to establish 62 independent heating and cooling zones in the building. When installed, the city was told it would save at least $35,548 a year in energy costs over 15 years, and that it could also save $56,731 a year in maintenance costs. Director of Administrative Services Gary Sparks said last summer those savings were being realized.

However, Kent told committee members that work is already being done to convert anaerobic digesters at the wastewater treatment plant to aerobic digesters -- a less costly way to process waste -- for $2.7 million. Rehabilitating the existing equipment could have cost double that amount, Kent said, even with potential energy savings included.

Kent also said it would take the city between 11 and 42 years to recoup its investment through energy savings, which he deemed "unacceptable."

Sparks said the city should not completely dismiss the plans.

"These companies have spent a lot of time here," he said. "They've committed a lot of resources, and I would like to see it tabled for a while to give it future consideration rather then killing this thing."