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Commissioners approve measures to save money and conserve energy

Last Updated on Sep 21, 2012 at 8:09am | Board of Commissioners

Two actions taken by the Board of Garrett County Commissioners at their August 7 public meeting will save the county $1.8 million in interest costs for water and sewer projects over 20 years and curb county facilities’ energy consumption by 5 percent in Fiscal Year 2013, and hopefully, 15 percent by 2015.

First, the Board unanimously approved the issuance of a new four-bond debt re-financing package of $35 million at 3.5 percent interest through Susquehanna Bank, which essentially consolidates a group of 12 bonds totaling $25,850,000, as well as other debts the Garrett County Sanitary District, Inc. had incurred to finance three water and sewer projects.

According to Linda Lindsey, Director of the Department of Public Utilities, the 12 bonds were rolled into a single, $25,850,000 Refunding Bond, while the other  three bonds amount to $8,220,000 for the Thayerville Water System; $55,000 for the Jennings Sewer Pump Station; and $875,000 for the Mt. Lake Park/Loch Lynn Heights Water System.  Ms. Lindsey credited Public Utilities Assistant Director Jeff Broadwater for spearheading the debt restructuring and noted, “We haven’t consolidated all our debt like this before, but this is more advantageous to the county.” 

Secondly, the Board – to reduce and manage energy costs within county government – unanimously approved an Energy Conservation Plan, which replaces a 1993 plan for Garrett County Government and targets five major utility cost contributors: electricity, fuel oil, natural gas, propane and water/sewerage.

Designed as a “living” document, which can be modified to reflect current “best practice” energy conservation, the plan establishes an Energy Conservation Team, with representatives from nine county departments, including Commissioner Robert Gatto.  The team and the county’s Facilities and Maintenance Department will work collaboratively with the Board of County Commissioners and the County Administrator in establishing energy guidelines and communicating them throughout county government facilities.

“This is a great initiative and very timely,” said Board Chairman James Raley.  “By approving this plan, it becomes our plan, which ties in nicely with our LEAN management.”  Spearheaded by Commissioner Gregan Crawford, LEAN management – creating more value while utilizing fewer resources – has a county committee, which is charged with implementing efficient methods to create better outcomes for employees and the constituents they serve.

Garrett County’s new Energy Conservation Plan outlines immediate, short and long-term measure for energy conservation and recognizes that third party energy audits and/or energy accounting software programs may be needed to effectively measure consumption.  “It’s premature to give you any consumption numbers now,” County Purchasing Agent Brian Bowers told the County Commissioners.  At the outset, the energy plan recommends that at least two years of county utility bill data be entered as baseline information for county facilities.

Mr. Bowers said the county has “modeled its goals after the state’s,” referring to the Empower Maryland initiative of reducing energy consumption by 15 percent statewide by 2015.  Initially, he said, the county hopes to reduce energy consumption by five percent in Fiscal Year 2013. The complete Garrett County Energy conservation Plan will be available to view on the county website at

Some of the plan’s energy-saving ideas include the following:

  • Turn off the lights: lighting accounts for about a third of facilities’ electrical energy use. Turning off lights could save up to 20 percent of lighting expenses.
  • De-lamping: Removing one or more lamps from multiple lamp fixtures can conserve energy.  One 36-watt fluorescent tube removed could save about $8.00 a year, based on 40 hours usage a week and national lighting industry calculations.
  • Turn off computers: About $40 per personal computer per year could be saved by employees turning off computers when not in use.
  • One degree difference:  Heating and cooling county facilities represents 30-50 percent of total energy costs. Raising or lowering thermostats “one degree” could result in energy savings of six percent for buildings that use electricity as primary energy and up to 4 percent for those using fuel or heating oil.

All told, the intent of the plan is to introduce cost-effective, energy efficient technologies throughout
county facilities and promote an energy conscious culture among all county employees.