Commission to vote on energy-efficiency plan

Making Sedgwick County buildings more energy efficient — with changes from the obvious to the more unique — would cost about $1.3 million but pay for itself in less than five years, an energy audit says.

Consolidated Edison Solutions Inc. finished an energy audit earlier this year of nearly all county buildings. The $88,000 study was paid for with federal stimulus money.

A proposed contract with the company calls for 83 projects that range from high-efficiency lighting to using an ozone-based system to clean inmates' uniforms and bedding at the jail.

The project would cost the county just more than $1 million. About $330,000 is available in federal money through the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant.

County commissioners will vote Wednesday about whether to proceed with the project.

Chairman Dave Unruh said he would support it.

"In my opinion, this is a business decision in that we can improve a lot of our energy efficiencies. In light of the return on that investment in a rapid time, I think it makes good business sense," Unruh said.

The project could face questions from Commissioner Richard Ranzau, who has voted consistently against using federal dollars for projects, saying such money is debt to future generations.

Ranzau said Monday that "in general I like the idea," but he said he probably would make the argument that if the project is necessary, the county should find a way to pay for it instead of relying partly on federal money.

He said he also planned to ask some questions about where the savings realized each year would be applied, such as the county's reserves or general fund.

"My concern is it's partially funded by stimulus money. That's nothing but pure debt, and I think it's bad policy," Ranzau said.

Some of the unique possibilities in the project:

* Installing equipment for a newer method of cleaning linens and uniforms at the jail.

The ozone-based system would inject ozone into the water stream, permitting users to lower the water temperature, use less detergent and cut drying time.

Steve Claassen, facilities director for the county, said ozone is an oxidizer that is effective as a cleaner and destroys resistant germs "that are problematic in large populations like this." He said some hospitals are using the newer technology.

* Installing "energy misers" on vending machines. Sensors shut off the machines if no one is around.

"They're like occupancy sensors. If there's no traffic walking across in the vicinity of those vending machines, it turns them off," Claassen said, adding that the sensors mainly turn refrigeration off at night.