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County uses federal funds to save energy

By Valerie Baldowski

Henry County officials gave their approval to the purchase of lighting fixtures and accessories for the county's Fleet Services Department, a deal made possible by a $750,000 federal block grant.

During its regular meeting this week, the Henry County Board of Commissioners approved a request by Mike Keeble, division director for the county's Facilities Maintenance Department, to make the purchase.

The Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

It was established to assist eligible cities, counties, states, territories, and Indian tribes, in implementing energy-efficiency conservation strategies, as well as to develop, promote, implement or manage energy-efficiency and conservation projects and programs, according to the federal department's web site.

The county accepted the block grant from the government in October 2009, said county officials, and will buy the fixtures and accessories from E. Sam Jones Distributor, Inc., based in Smyrna, at a cost of $11,227.85. The work is part of energy-efficient improvements to various county buildings during the year, said Keeble.

The improvements were paid for by drawing funds from the grant, which specifically was to assist the county in making its facilities more energy-efficient, said Julie Hoover-Ernst, county communications director.

Since then, the county has made at least $250,000 worth of energy-efficiency upgrades, said Keeble, and all work was done in-house.

The heating and air conditioning systems have been replaced at both the Juvenile Court Building, located at 40 Atlanta St., and the Life Management Solutions building, on Veterans Drive in McDonough, he said.

The Heating Ventilation Air conditioning systems were also replaced in the Henry County Probate Court building, at 99 Sims St., and at Fire Station No. 1, in McDonough, continued Keeble. Additionally, the heating system at the Jason T. Harper Event Center was replaced. All of the systems were replaced with energy-efficient models, which will translate into ongoing savings, he said.

"We're upgrading to much more energy-efficient equipment at no cost to the taxpayers," said Keeble.

Another $12,000 was used to purchase energy-auditing equipment, to efficiently test heat gain and loss, said Hoover-Ernst.

Keeble said the money left over from the block grant can be used for other purposes. "What we're wanting to do is add another chiller at the jail," said the division director. "That is a very expensive piece of equipment, that one piece of equipment is probably $110,000."

A chiller, he explained, is used in air conditioning equipment. It is also used to heat water, said Keeble.