Justices of the Peace hear energy savings proposal

A program that could save Jefferson County government a significant amount of money in utility bills was outlined by representatives of a Kansas company who had conducted a survey of county buildings at the request of County Judge Dutch King.

Jeff Williamson, who works for Custom Energy LLC of Overland Park, Kans., spoke to six members of the Quorum Court during an informational meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Williamson said the county currently spends about $575,000 annually, but if the program his company prepared was adopted, a savings of $58,000 annually would be likely, and possibly a great deal more.

The full program, including financing, would cost more than $1.8 million over 20 years and calls for major improvements at the county courthouse and other county buildings including the health department, county extension office, Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical museum, public defender’s office, and others, with the costs to the county approximately $73,000 per year.

At the courthouse, Williamson said one chiller machine used for air conditioning is not working, while a second piece of equipment is 24 years old, and was installed when the courthouse was rebuilt after a fire.

“The life expectancy for that type of machine is generally 20 to 22 years so it’s at the end of its life cycle,” Williamson said. Additionally, Williamson said there are air quality issues at the courthouse, lighting and control upgrades are needed, and “the gas meter is reading low compared to actual use.”

At the health department building, Williamson said the heating and air conditioning unit has to be operated manually, the lighting is inefficient, and the roof has little insulation and possible leaks. A leaking room was also discovered at the county museum.

According to figures obtained from utility bills, the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center is the most expensive building in the county in terms of energy use, with 40 to 45 percent of the total county energy going to the jail.

While not a part of the original program designed by Williamson, he agreed to look at the adult jail and see if improvements could reduce the energy use.

The program was basically the same as one presented to the Quorum Court about seven years ago, a program the justices of the peace decided not to adopt.

“My concern is that in the past, everything we’ve done has been a Band-aid, and speaking for myself, we need to get everything done,” King said.

Justice of the Peace Herman Ginger said “if we want to do it, we need to do it today because the cost is going to go up.”

Justice of the Peace Conley Byrd reserved judgment, saying he wanted time to “think about it.”

“If it’s a good deal today, it’s going to be a good deal tomorrow,” Byrd said. “This is a big package and we’ve got to be extremely prudent with the taxpayers’ money.”

While Williamson pitched the entire package, he said adjustments including taking out the new roofs at the museum and health department, and the heating and air conditioning unit at the health department would mean the county could pay for the remainder of the package with savings from the utility budget.

In addition to Ginger and Byrd, other justices of the peace attending the session were Ted Harden, Sissy Granderson, Vannette Johnson and Mandy Alford.