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Houston County Courier - Local News

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County Looking To Reduce Energy Consumption


By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter

Houston County commissioners want to reduce the amount of energy being consumed by county buildings and to update aged cooling and heating equipment in the buildings. And they are considering contracting with either one of two companies that could help them achieve their goal. The Houston County Commissioners Court heard a presentation given by Steve Smelley, business development manager with Way Companies, of Houston, who wants the job of helping the county reduce its energy consumption at a regular meeting of the court on Tuesday, May 9. A second company that wants the job, John Controls, of Houston, had Larry Jones, one of its account executives, pitch its services to the commissioners at their previous regular meeting on April 25. The commissioners will have employees from both companies survey and complete feasibility studies of the county's energy use, including utilities wasted by its 15 buildings with current equipment, compared with what consumption would be with new equipment, according to County Judge Jim Lovell. The turn-around time for completion of an assessment and presentation of the results to county officials is about a month and a half. After the assessments are completed, the commissioners will decide which company they will contract with, Lovell said. The companies will conduct the assessments at no cost to the county, and the chosen one will not be paid until the work is done to reduce energy use by the county. "They're pitching the same deal which is they will come in and do an assessment of what our energy costs are now versus what they would be with new equipment," Lovell said. "(For example), heating and air conditioning (equipment) in the courthouse. It's ancient. It's probably as high an energy user (as any) that could be in there." Lovell continued, "They (the two companies) would make assessments of what the energy savings would be with new equipment and guarantee that savings. "And you could replace that (old equipment) over a term that you work together with them, from 10 to 20 years by that legislation" they – Jones and Smelley – talked about: Local Government Code Chapter 302, which covers "Energy Savings Performance Contracts for Local Governments." Lovell added, "And they would guarantee that you would save enough money to pay for it (new equipment) in whatever term of years. "In our case, it would be the only way we could replace some infrastructure because we wouldn't have to come out of our budget. They show us on a quarterly basis how much we're doing – how much we've saved. "They'll look at every county building and assess what the energy costs are now versus what they would be and show us where the savings would pay for it. And they'll guarantee And if it doesn't (come out the way they say), they'll write a check (to make up the difference). "They've had to do that (write checks to their clients when they were wrong). I know (Jones from Johnson Controls) said they've missed it sometimes and they guarantee it." "Like I say, with our budget, I think (this) is the only way to replace some of the stuff." Lovell said the money to pay for replacement of outdated equipment would come from "a third-party loan, but they're showing us how that would be paid back over that period of time. If we choose 10 years, they are showing us how the savings would pay for it and then we have updated equipment." He said the equipment could be installed by the contractor they choose, but "it can also be done by local vendors. (It's) our call. Personally, I would like to see it done locally. I like to shop Houston County anyway." Smelley and Way Companies Regional Director Bill Moritz had met with Lovell, Precinct 4 Commissioner Kennon Kellum and County Auditor Melissa Mosley to give the county officials information about their services before Tuesday's meeting. Jones told the commissioners at the April 25 meeting, Johnson Controls already is working with the City of Crockett and City of Grapeland under contracts similar to the one his company is seeking with Houston County. He made a presentation to the Crockett City Council at a regular meeting of the council on April 3. The representatives of the two companies say they can help Houston County officials by assisting in capturing certain percentages of what the officials spend on county utility bills and help them reinvest the money saved back into the county's infrastructure. Moritz told the commissioners the county has five "energy hogs" among its 15 buildings: Houston County Justice Center, the courthouse, the old county jail building, the courthouse annex and the Houston County Senior Center. He said those buildings are responsible for about threefourths of the the county's utility costs and should be looked at first. In other business, the commissioners: • unanimously voted to pass a motion made by Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Lovell and seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen to accept a $1,000 donation from Grady Grounds for improvements to CR 1620; • all agreed to a motion offered by Gary Lovell – seconded by Kitchen – approving purchase, up to $2,500, of real property in Precinct 1 for a county bridge replacement project on CR 1750 at Rich Creek; • approved by unanimous vote a motion made by Kitchen – seconded by Kellum – granting a request by Piney Woods Fine Arts Association (PWFAA) for $3,000 from the county's Hotel Occupancy Tax fund for the PWFAA-sponsored Summer Lightnin' Concert Series to be held June 1, 8, 15 and 22, beginning at 8 p.m. each day, at the J.B. & Kathryn Sallas Amphitheatre at Arnold Park, next to Houston County Museum, in Crockett; • accepted on a unanimous vote, on a motion offered by Kitchen – seconded by Kellum and Gary Lovell – sale and transfer of a Houston County Airport hangar lease from Don Stokes to TSK International, Inc., represented by Gerald Farrar, at the sale price of $12,000; • unanimously voted to pass a motion made by Gary Lovell – seconded by Kitchen – approving wages for three employees promoted or hired in the Vehicle Title and Registration Department of Tax Assessor- Collector Danette Millican's office, effective May 15: a senior deputy clerk ($1,101.21 biweekly); a deputy clerk II ($1,048.77 biweekly) and a deputy clerk I ($998.83 biweekly); and, • received, as information, on a unanimous vote, a two-page environmental report submitted by Precinct 1 Constable Morris Luker, who also is the county's environmental control/communty service officer.


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