Orleans believes energy savings will cover most of $1.5 M in upgrades

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The county jail received about $1 million in improvements that should mostly pay for themselves in increased efficiency costs, county officials said.

ALBION – The county has completed about $1.5 million in energy conservation upgrades, work that officials expect will pay for itself in the coming years through increased energy efficiencies.

Most of the work, about $1 million worth of projects, was focused at the county jail. But the initiatives included energy upgrades at the County Clerk’s Building, Courthouse, highway garage, mental health building, nursing home, public safety building, central hall (treasurer’s office) and veterans office. In the six of the nine buildings, new more energy-efficient lights were installed.

The county spent $1,474,371 for the projects. State and federal grants paid $111,200. The upgrades are expected to reduce the county’s utility bills by $63,853 a year at the current market prices, said Keith Krug, the project manager from Wendel Energy of Buffalo.

The projects could pay for themselves in about 15 to 20 years with the reduced energy costs.

Wendel worked with county officials, especially highway superintendent Jerry Gray, for about two years in making the improvements. The highway department helped bring the projects in under budget by $82,000, Krug told legislators.

“Jerry Gray and his staff are the most committed DPW department we’ve ever worked with,” Krug said. “They did everything on time. In the end you were able to do more with your dollar.”

The improvements have given the county jail extended life by at least another 20 years, and stopped the pressure from the state Department of Corrections to build a new facility, legislators said.

“The $1 million in jail improvements saved the county $30 million by not having to build a new jail,” Legislator Lynne Johnson said.

Wendel did an energy audit of 10 county buildings about two years ago and worked with the county to identify projects that would have a payback through grants and energy savings.

The jail on Platt Street, built in two stages around 1970, was crowded and falling into disrepair mainly due to water infiltration. The state was pressuring Orleans to build a new facility.

But a series of improvements, plus a drop in the inmate population, have quieted talk that the jail is inadequate.

The jail used to have a problem with water infiltration from the roof, with a leaking expansion joint the main culprit. But contractors put on a new tiled roof and sealed the expansion joint. The roof is on top of a rubber membrane with a drainage system.

The jail also has a new boiler system, and a series of energy efficiency improvements, including new caulking around about 100 windows and also on the seams of the building. Crews sprayed insulation inside the concrete panels on the building.

The project upgraded showers and gate motors in the cell blocks. The showers now have water timers and a raised concrete pad on the floor, which will reduce water migration.