Shores hopes to enjoy substantial savings through energy efficiencies

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 20, 2013

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The city is expected to give a new twist to the old adage that it takes money to make money.

Shores officials have strong reason to believe that an energy efficiency project will save them so much money, it will pay for itself.

Depending on which option officials approve, the plan calls for electrical, lighting, heating and cooling upgrades, a backup generator for municipal offices and the Department of Public Works, new garage doors, replacements for municipal sewage pumps, better temperature control systems and sealing exterior building cracks and gaps to retain heat and air conditioning. In many cases, new equipment would replace pieces that have been in use long past their effective lifespan, including air handling units and a hot water boiler at City Hall that date back to 1983.

“Much of our equipment is old, outdated and beyond its useful life,” City Manager Mark Wollenweber told the City Council during a meeting Jan. 15.

Wollenweber said Honeywell — which performed an energy analysis of the Shores last May and has provided suggestions for efficiencies — has done similar projects throughout the state that have worked well.

Dick Williams, Honeywell’s government market leader in Michigan, said he personally has worked on about 60 such projects during his 33-year career. He said the Shores’ old pneumatic controls — which are hard to replace now — would be converted to a digital system that Public Works Director Brett Smith could access from a laptop computer. A proposed liquid chemical pool cover with chemicals that would be emitted on top to reduce water evaporation is another proposal for savings.

“The chemical is very safe,” Williams said. “It’s used in many pools throughout the country.” Besides reducing water costs, it also comes with energy savings, he said.

A proposed backup generator for the municipal complex would enable city officials to use these buildings as an emergency warming or cooling center, Williams said. In addition, he said DTE offers a lower rate for interruptible service — something the Shores could take advantage of, knowing that if DTE had to cut power to City Hall, they could use the generator to maintain city services.

In some cases, the old equipment is a potential hazard. That’s apparently true of some of the inefficient heaters at the DPW.

“A couple of them have actually caught fire over the years,” Williams said.

Honeywell would provide the Shores with up-front costs, and Williams said it would take about a year to get everything installed. The scope of the project is up to Shores officials, but the Finance Committee has already approved going forward.

“We’re interested in whatever you’re interested in to give you the best rate and the best value. … We’re interested in whatever’s best for the village,” Williams told officials.

Mayor Ted Kedzierski said, from the documents, it appeared that “we don’t really (face) a downside” by going forward with the project.

“The measurables are in place, and they guarantee them,” said City Council member Bruce Bisballe, who also chairs the Finance Committee. “If the savings don’t occur, we’re not on the hook. … I think it’s foolproof.”

Several fellow officials concurred.

“As a member of the Finance Committee, I’m very much in favor of it,” City Council member Kay Felt said.

City Council member Robert Barrette said the Shores — with a street-lighting system that’s about 65 years old — doesn’t have the capacity to use LEDs now.

“I support the whole package,” he said. “It’s a good way to get (improvements) done.”

The council voted unanimously in favor of a letter of intent to go forward with a possible contract. The letter of intent includes a provision that this portion of the process is not to exceed $25,000, which includes administrative expenses for Honeywell. For example, Williams said there might be environmental concerns, such as asbestos on boiler elbows, and he said if that’s the case, they’d need to include costs for such remediation in the final contract.

Officials expressed greater interest in the second of two project options, which would include underground rewiring from 4,800 volts to 120 volts as part of the lighting upgrades. This option would cost $1.82 million, but by reducing operational expenses from $311,512 annually to $127,195 annually, it would actually save the city $184,317 per year after the 15-year payment period. Even while paying for the project in two installments annually, Williams said the Shores would still have a “positive cash flow each year” because of the savings.

“It’s a fiscally responsible way for the village to fund replacements you know you’d be needing to replace anyway,” he said.

If underground wiring in the second option is financed, that adds another $1.307 million to the price tag, but the savings still stand, according to Honeywell’s report.

Officials said Honeywell guarantees that this project will pay for itself, or Honeywell will pick up the tab.

At press time, Smith said the project was still in the planning and engineering phases. He said they had a walk-through with vendors through city buildings Feb. 5, and Smith met with Honeywell representatives that first week in February, as well.

Honeywell representatives are next expected to go out for bids on the project, but a representative could not be reached before press time to confirm that.