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Department of Energy discusses projects with county

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy met this week with Clayton County officials, including Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, to follow up on the county's energy-saving projects, through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, according to a spokesperson for the Board of Commissioners.

Spokesperson Jamie Carlington said the Department of Energy observed the county's current project plans and visited several project sites.

"Our county has taken very aggressive steps to see that we become responsible environmental stewards," said Chairman Bell in a prepared statement. "The county first announced its environmental initiative in January of this year with renovations that would save $361,000 in annual utility costs and generate $213,000 in annual carbon credit revenue. Now, with the funds from [the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant] we will continue to make additional energy upgrades throughout the county."

The notification of approval of the $2,545,900 grant, was received earlier this year, according to Bill Hanson, coordinator for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, at Clayton County Housing and Community Development.

"We will utilize all of these funds," said Hanson, during a phone interview.

Hanson said there are four energy-saving projects, which will and are taking place in the county.

The first project involves the purchasing and installment of energy-efficient equipment for the kitchen at the Clayton County Jail, in Jonesboro, said Hanson. The kitchen, which is about 10,000 square feet, serves three meals a day to approximately 1,800 inmates, he said.

He said the kitchen equipment is partially installed and should be complete within 30 days.

Hanson said the second project involves the replacement and recovery of roofs at the Jonesboro Historical Courthouse Annex 3, in Jonesboro; the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services, in Jonesboro; the Clayton County Alzheimer's Support Services, in Riverdale; the Behavioral Health Services, in Jonesboro and the Clayton County Morrow Branch Library, in Morrow.

He said the roof construction is currently in progress, and should be complete before Christmas.

"We were able to meet the county's need of upgrading these roofs," said Hanson, about how the grant was able to assist.

Hanson said highly reflective roof coverings will be installed on the buildings, to reflect the sun's rays, for the reduction of energy consumption in those facilities. The roofs will also come with a 30-year warranty, he added.

He said most roofs are dark in color and absorb the heat of the sun, which makes a building warmer, and therefore more of the air conditioning must be used, which increases energy consumption.

"There is a benefit to natural policy...to reduce energy consumption, so we are not so dependent on foreign energy," he explained.

The reduction of energy consumption also reduces the pollution that is created, he said.

Hanson said the county is responsible for paying the utility bills of these buildings, but the new roofs will assist in reducing the costs of these bills, which in result will save tax payers money.

Furthermore, the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, in Jonesboro, will receive new generators that will be more compliant with current standards, said Hanson.

"Standards...in terms of reducing pollution in our environment," he said.

The grant will also allow Clayton County to sequence traffic lights in different areas, to maximize traffic flow, reduce pollution and reduce the time that is consumed by motorists on the road, according to Hanson.

"National studies show you can save 20 percent of fuel consumption, and time wasted, by sequencing traffic lights," he said, adding that the

sequencing of traffic lights will begin later this winter, and should be complete by May 2011.

"The energy upgrade projects in the county are not only reducing energy consumption but also creating at least 100 local jobs," added spokeswoman Carlington.