City, county officials plan energy audit

Projected savings could help energy-efficient improvements

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Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs have contracted with an engineering firm to conduct an energy audit that ultimately could lead to various green improvements to government facilities.

"This is a program through the Governor's Energy Office that has been set up to have public buildings and facilities reviewed for greater energy efficiency," said Tim Winter, the county's building and plant director.

Seattle-based McKinstry, which has worked with the South Routt and Hayden school districts, will conduct the audit scheduled for completion in March and also complete by May a comprehensive plan for improvements that will include their cost and expected energy savings. Government officials will then decide what improvements, if any, to make.

"From there we start looking at implementation of the programs they want to do," Winter said.

McKinstry installed the new biomass heating system at Soroco High School and Middle School that replaced a dirty, old and inefficient coal boiler system. The company also replaced three, 30-year-old boilers at Hayden High School with energy-efficient units. Although South Routt School District went to voters to pay for its improvements, Winter said the city and county are more likely to take the same route as the Hayden School District and finance the improvements through a guaranteed performance contract with McKinstry whereby payments would be based on anticipated energy savings.

"As part of the performance contract, McKinstry will guarantee the minimum energy savings represented in the technical energy audit for the aspects of the project selected by the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County," Winter wrote in a memo to the Routt County Board of Commissioners. "If the full energy savings do not result, McKinstry will pay the difference to assure the full value of those savings."

Winter said the term of the financing would depend on the magnitude of the improvements. Although some things can pay for themselves in a short period of time, such as lighting improvements, others, including mechanical upgrades, would take longer.

"The real plus will be in the end because we'll be saving in operating costs," Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

Hayden's lease-purchase agreement with McKinstry lasts 15 years, during which time the school district will pay the company $557,160. Winter said the city and county are paying McKinstry 8 cents a square foot for the audit, for a total of about $40,000.

"That fee is not paid up front," he said. "It can be included in the financing of the whole projects unless we decide not to do it."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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