ALPENA - When the Alpena County Board of Commissioners voted to invest $1.6 million into energy efficiency upgrades into the building the county owns, it was with the intent of reducing costs and strengthening the county's budget. Little did commissioners know by doing so they would receive an award, and recognition for their forward thinking.
Last week the county was presented the Economic Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Energy Services Coalition-Michigan Chapter. The county entered into an energy savings performance contract with Ameresco, Inc., and after the company completed an energy audit it proposed a plan that would potentially save the county $102,000 or more annually on utility costs.
Contractors were hired and the upgrades were made across the county properties, including Northern Lights Arena, Plaza Pool, the courthouse, fairgrounds and airport. Ameresco backed its savings projections by guaranteeing the estimates and promising to pay the county the difference in the billing amount should it exceed the projected savings. Ameresco Executive Vice President Louis Maltezos said the commissioners decision was made with the future of the county in mind and as a way to make needed improvements in a manner in which the energy savings will pay for the bonds sold to have the work done.
"We congratulate Alpena County not only for the award, but for its prudence and insight in embracing the ESPC solution," Maltezos said. "Like many communities, Alpena County needed to find a creative funding mechanism to pay for aging infrastructure and installing Ameresco is proud to be a partner and provide a solution to repurpose those energy savings to pay for their county-wide infrastructure improvements."
Commissioner Lyle VanWormer, chair of the finance xommittee, said receiving the award is a feather in the hat for Alpena County, but he also is proud that many of the improvements will provide an improved work conditions and atmosphere.
"We are honored to be selected for this prestigious award," VanWormer said. "Our partnership with Ameresco has enabled us to increase the energy efficiency in our buildings and improve comfort and productivity for our buildings occupants."
Among the upgrades made were new heating and cooling systems, water conservation improvements, new lighting and weatherization and mechanical improvements. Commissioner Tom Mulleney said the plan has been beneficial for Alpena County and could be for other communities as well, depending on their circumstances.
"I would tell anyone to have a look at the plan and what Ameresco's report says and move from there," Mullaney said. "Maybe some would benefit as much as we did, while some may not if they have new buildings or already made upgrades."
Mullaney and Commissioner Cam Habermehl went to Lansing for the event, which was held at the Michigan Municipal League office. It has not yet been determined where the award will be displayed.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.