Energy plan interviews held

Published 6:30 pm Saturday, January 16, 2016

City and school officials spent Thursday morning interviewing two firms who submitted audits under the energy performance contracting program, which officials hope will save both entities money on energy costs.

The state program allows government entities to contract with a list of state-approved vendors to make energy-saving updates, such as to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, lighting, plumbing and more.

If the energy savings do not pay for the debt on the improvements, the company actually writes a check for the difference.

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Councilman Mike Duman, a member of the City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns, has been pushing to make the project happen since the committee’s inception more than a year ago.

“I’m pleased that they’ve finally gotten to this point,” Duman said.

He sits on the board of the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, which has gone through the process and realized savings, mostly in water use.

Gerry Jones, city director of capital programs and buildings, said five firms on the state-approved list were invited to submit “back-of-the-envelope” audits, a rough estimate of how much savings the city and schools could expect to see. Only two firms, Trane and Ameresco, responded.

Jones said the majority of the projected savings appear to come from lighting and HVAC.

“It appears, based on the questions that I asked, that it will benefit the school facilities more so than the city,” Duman said.

If the program works, he added, more money would be available for other needs.

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to realize some energy savings through the energy performance contracting, which will allow for reallocation of funds that were initially already budgeted for,” Duman said.

The city directed a Freedom of Information Act request for the companies audit estimates to the school system, saying it was the custodian of the records.

Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw refused to provide the records and also declined to provide the specific code section under which she was refusing as required by state law, even after being asked to do so on Friday afternoon.

“The submissions are not public record at this time,” she wrote. “We are currently in the procurement process.”