Companies duel for audit

County Board continues weighing energy project, contractors seeking a perfect plan

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An effort to save money by making energy improvements is proving harder than first anticipated.

The Edgar County Board is currently weighing qualifications of SmartWatt and Honeywell to perform an energy audit of the county’s buildings and look for ways to make changes that result in less energy use and create a financial savings. The topic was discussed during the Monday, Sept. 24, study session.

“One says one thing and the other says something different,” said board member Andy Patrick. “I’m kind of up in the air about it.”

The material board members are evaluating is to decide which company is best suited to do the work, not specific proposals for projects. Both companies have floated some ideas of what might be done.

Board member Derrick Lorenzen noted SmartWatt and Honeywell have opposite viewpoints about the feasibility of solar energy helping the county save money. SmartWatt claims the use of incentive money makes it possible for the county to build a solar collector array at the Edgar County Airport and through net metering of the power generated earn bill credits on consumption in the county’s buildings.

Honeywell is less optimistic the funding mechanisms exist for a new solar array and does not recommend that approach.

Lorenzen said subsequent talks with the Honeywell representative confirmed the company does have a budget neutral option for energy audit projects, but SmartWatt has always stressed the work must be budget neutral or it isn’t worth doing. Budget neutral means the county does not spend more than it normally does on energy-related issues but the expenditures are made with the idea the project increases efficiency and lowers consumption.

“I got the impression Honeywell was only interested in the big projects like the courthouse roof and the elevator, I’m not sure there’s any savings there that dovetails with other energy savings,” said board member John Chittick.

County clerk and recorder August Griffin volunteered to call the references supplied by both companies to determine how well the businesses complied with promises.

Board member Dan Bruner asked if the move toward an energy plan means courthouse security is taking a back seat.

According to Patrick, those are two separate issues. He also expressed frustration about the inability to get proposals back from contractors about doing security work in the courthouse such as changing the entries to the probation, the state attorney’s and the circuit clerk’s offices.

“I spent a half-day with two companies looking at courthouse security and they have never called back,” said Patrick.

The issue of adding the Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS) to the Edgar County Special Service Area Ambulance (ECSSAA) was revisited. The volunteer-based NECAS provides ambulance service to Brouilletts Creek, Edgar, Prairie, Ross, Young America and Shiloh townships. A major difficulty for NECAS is keeping a sufficient number of volunteers in service to operate around the clock, 365 days a year.

ECSSAA covers Hunter, Stratton, Elbridge, Symmes, Grandview, Paris and Buck townships. Residents of the special service area pay a tax to help underwrite the ambulance.

Eric and Nicole Shaughnessy operate the ECCSSA, and they were present at the meeting. Eric Shaughnessy said the townships in northern Edgar County declined to participate when the special service area was formed in 2003.

Shaughnessy expressed no opinion regarding the advantages or disadvantages of altering the makeup of the special service area.

He did say if NECAS ceases to operate it will become the county board’s obligation to provide ambulance service to that part of the county.

Representatives of the Horizon Health Ambulance were also present. Jesse Lewsader confirmed Horizon Health is assisting NECAS by covering days when there are not enough volunteers. He added Horizon Health also provides an intercept service when NECAS has a patient requiring a paramedic level ambulance.

The arrangement, Lewsader said, seems to be working well.

“There’s not a lot we can do until Northern Edgar County decides what they want to do,” said Chittick.