After getting the green light from the county’s facilities committee, a recommendation to enter into a multi-year, million-plus dollar energy savings contract will now go before the full Scotland County Board of Commissioners later this month.
The Facilities and Capital Committee, comprised of Commissioners John Cooley, Bob Davis and Guy McCook voted unanimously this week to recommend that the county contract with Johnson Controls to help the county go green.
As proposed, the contract would cost $1.2 million, with yearly energy savings guaranteed by Johnson Controls.
“With that indemnity clause, there really is very little liability for the county,” said McCook, chairman of the board of commissioners.
Among the other advantages of the project — which is described as a “performance contract” because of the savings guaranteed by Johnson Controls — is that it will allow the county to have a “fairly predictable utility bill” over the 15-year life of the agreement, McCook said.
Under the contract, Johnson Controls will be responsible for installing energy efficient lighting and fixtures in county owned buildings, as well as efficient heating and air units. They will also analyze faucets, toilets and showers and install more efficient units where appropriate.
In holding up their end of the bargain, the county must maintain a fairly strict temperature plan.
“One of the significant changes will be that buildings must be kept at 70 in the winter and at 74 in the summer,” McCook said. The temperature in county facilities will be set at a pass code protected thermostat. Temperatures will also be significantly adjusted during the hours when employees are not in the office.
The county must also agree to maintain building occupancy at its current levels, especially at the jail, where water flow is heavily dependent on population.
“Our savings are based on advanced models … and software developed by the federal government using average weather data for your area … so it is very important that the system be locked down,” said Matt Griner of Johnson Controls during a presentation to the committee.
One of the final obstacles to the project was the abatement of asbestos around the boiler at the Scotland County Courthouse. Because of company policy, Johnson Controls does not handle asbestos like what was found near the boiler. After reaching an agreement with the county to first have the asbestos removed, Johnson Controls will move forward with replacing the boiler.
“That should lead to a good deal of gas savings,” Griner said.
Griner’s company will work with local firm Simmons Heating and Air on much of the installation work.
First proposed last year, the entire project appeared to be dead-in-the-water until Johnson Controls came back to the county this month with what County Manager Kevin Patterson called “aggressive projections” of cost savings.
In Griner’s words, Johnson Controls will help the county “achieve its cost capital goals with energy conservation measures, or ECMs.”
According to Griner, the contract must now be approved by the county, then approved by the Local Government Commission and government officials at the state level.
“Then we go out financing, and have financiers compete,” Griner said.
If all goes to plan, the five or six month project could begin as soon as April.
“We want to do this during spring when the temperatures are mild,” said Griner, explaining that some of the temperature control equipment will be out of commission while work is being done.
Throughout the life of the contract Johnson Controls will do a yearly check of energy efficiency, and in years when the county comes in with more expense than projected they will be reimbursed by the company.
“A shortfall on our part would be due to if our equipment isn’t as efficient as we say it is,” Griner informed the committee. “When there are more savings than projected – and we allowed for a six to seven percent cushion in our projections – then those would stay with the county.”
In the performance contracting business since the 1980s, Johnson Controls has more than a billion dollars of performance guaranteed contracts on the books currently. The company also claims to have done the first ever performance contract and to have never defaulted on one of the agreements.
Among the company’s clients are hospitals, military bases, jails as well as counties and school systems.
Founded around the turn of the century, the company’s creator also claims to have invented the first pneumatic thermostat.
Johnson Controls is also currently contracted with the Empire State Building in New York City.