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County gets $4.2M grant for energy-saving upgrades

PORT RICHEY — More than $4 million in federal stimulus cash will help the county make dozens of energy-efficient upgrades to government buildings. Officials say that will make a serious dent in utility costs.

Many of the upgrades include bread-and-butter items such as new heating and air conditioning units. But there are a couple of novelties, including two new revolving doors at the West Pasco Courthouse and fixtures that will cut water usage in half at the Pasco County Jail.

"This will save us a lot of money over the years," said Dan Johnson, an assistant county administrator.

Of course, the chief goal of the stimulus is to create jobs. Using a calculation from the White House, the project is estimated to save or create about 45 jobs, which represents county and contract employees who work on the projects. A separate calculation from the federal Department of Energy says the job figure could be higher.

Officials seem most excited about the new revolving doors, which are scheduled for delivery in three months. Popular in office buildings up North, the doors make it easier to keep a building cool. In high-traffic areas — such as the courthouse on days when juries are picked — traditional doors create a near-constant opening for cool air to gush out of a building. But a revolving door forms a seal that allows only a fraction of the cool air to escape.

An "in" and an "out" revolving door also will make it easier for bailiffs to keep people from sneaking into unauthorized entrances.

"It's a no-brainer for us," said Terry Falke, who is administering the grant for the county.

The water-saving fixtures at the Pasco Jail are also expected to have a significant impact, cutting annual water usage from 31 million gallons to 16 million. Fixtures include showers that cut off after six minutes and toilets that use less water and allow only two flushes every 30 minutes.

The county had to get special permission from the Department of Energy to install the water system because its main savings is water and not energy.

"Once I gave them the numbers, they were all, 'Please, by all means,' " Falke said.

The cost of the new water system is $270,000, and the estimated annual savings are almost $150,000.

Some projects offer a better return on investment than others.

For example, new fluorescent light bulbs at several county buildings are expected to pay for themselves after two years. Each project will be monitored to see how much energy is saved.

Overall, Falke said a "very conservative" estimate of the savings is about $440,000 each year. The deadline for finishing the projects is November 2012.

Of the $4.2 million grant, officials plan to spend $3.7 million on the projects themselves. Other major costs include $240,000 for temporary workers and $183,000 for an outside firm to conduct an energy audit of more than 20 county buildings and make suggestions for upgrades.

Initially, the county planned to contract with Schneider Electric to conduct the whole project. But the company said it could spend only about $2.3 million on projects, with the balance going to overhead and profit.

"We looked at that and said we can do it a lot cheaper," said Andrew Baxter, a supervisor in the county's Facilities Department. "We're getting a lot more bang for our buck by doing it in-house."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

>>fast facts

Energy saving projects

$2.4m for heating and air conditioning upgrades at 17 buildings.

$270k for water fixture upgrades at the Pasco Jail

$550k roof replacements at six buildings

$179k two revolving doors at the West Pasco courthouse

$144k lighting upgrades at 10 buildings

$62K for solar water heaters at 10 fire stations

Source: Pasco County Facilities Department

County gets $4.2M grant for energy-saving upgrades 03/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 2:23pm]
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