The Sebastian County Quorum Court took a step to potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in utilities costs during its regular meeting Tuesday.
The justices of the peace unanimously passed a resolution authorizing County Judge David Hudson to enter into an Investment Grade Audit and Project Development contract for the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting Program.
The Arkansas Energy Office website states EPC is a financing mechanism used to pay for energy efficiency improvements all at once, which are, in turn, paid back through annual energy savings. The Arkansas Energy Office offers assistance to state agencies, higher learning institutions, municipalities and counties, which provides an effective, user-friendly process with standardized documents and help every step of of the way.
In a memo to the Quorum Court, Hudson said the program would allow Sebastian County to issue bonds to finance all the costs of energy efficiency projects at no up-front expense.
“Bonds will be secured by a pledge of savings from the energy efficiency project and directly repaid from the savings from the project,” Hudson said. “Savings will be verified by a measurement verification program vetted and overseen by the state energy office in line with national standards. The capital improvements will be repaid by adjusting appropriate county budgets gas, water and electric appropriations and budgeting the documented savings from the audit in a bond repayment budget.”
Chet Howland, the Arkansas Energy Office energy finance program manager, provided JPs with an overview of the EPC program. Michael Grabham, the south regional director of the Dallas-based company McKinstry, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the project and answered questions.
McKinstry will perform the Investment Grade Audit and Project Proposal to determine the feasibility of entering into an Energy Performance Contract to provide installation and implementation of energy and water saving measures at Sebastian County facilities. If energy and water saving measures are determined to be feasible, and the amount of savings can be reasonably sufficient to cover all costs associated with an EPC project as defined by the county, the parties intend to negotiate an Energy Performance Contract under which McKinstry will design, procure, install, implement, maintain and monitor such energy and water saving measures.
During the presentation, Grabham said according to a preliminary look at county facilities, three buildings make up about 70 percent of what Sebastian County spends on utilities per year. These include the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center at 44 percent, the courts building at 14 percent and the Fort Smith Courthouse at 12 percent. Ben Geren Parks and Recreation also takes up another 12 percent by itself, and 10 other buildings make up the remaining 18 percent.
After breaking down the utility costs of each of the top four facilities, as well as describing facility improvement measures for them, Grabham said the project could potentially result in combined estimated utilities cost savings of more than $340,000 per year for Sebastian County. This would result in an about 40 percent reduction from what the county currently spends on utilities per year, which he said was more than $870,000. Grabham also projected an estimated $90,000 a year in operations and maintenance savings per year for the county.
The contract states after Sebastian County accepts the final Investment Grade Audit and Project Proposal Contract, it will pay McKinstry an amount not to exceed $198,000.
The Sebastian County Quorum Court will have its next meeting Aug. 15.
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