County ready to improve facilities’ energy-efficiency

ALPENA – The sale of $1,565,000 of 15-year bonds is complete and Alpena County should acquire the money it needs for sweeping energy upgrades in all of its facilities on June 4.

Once the funds are in place Ameresco can finalize deals with contractors who can then begin making the needed improvements at some point in July. Ameresco has promised the county it will save a minimum of $105,000 a year in energy costs and that amount will be enough to cover the bond payments. If there is a shortfall in the amount of money saved, Ameresco must make up the difference according to the agreement with the county.

Treasurer Kim Ludlow said the bond agreement is set up so the interest rate does not fluxuate, until it is paid off. She said the amount of principal that will be paid off annually will increase each year by about $5,000, beginning with $60,000 in the first year. The total payment on the bonds this year will be about $107,000.

“The bonds went out for bid on May 15. They were received and we got a flat rate for the entire 15 years of 2.05 percent,” Ludlow said. “All of the needed paperwork is signed and everything is a go.”

Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said the county made sure the amount of utility cost savings was significant enough to cover the amount of the investment. He said he hopes the work can be completed in a timely manner, so the county can begin to lower its bills.

“The whole issue came down to the county making sure the savings would cover the cost of the bond and that is the way it has worked out,” VanWormer said. “We want to start getting the savings. That is why we want it done as soon as we can, because the savings are automatically going to start showing up on the bills.”

Maintenance Superintendent Wes Wilder, who has been working closely with Ameresco, said the work should begin in July and wrap up during the late summer or early fall. He said the county has expressed a desire to have Northern Lights Arena and Plaza Pool worked on first, but expects more than one facility being addressed at one time for much of the project.

“For the most part they are going to begin at the arena and pool and I hope they can have things done near the end of September or early October,” Wilder said. “There is a timeline in place and some of the bigger jobs will need to be done while the weather is good. I suspect there will be multiple contractors working at several facilities at the same time.”

The county commissioners decided last month to close NLA for May and reopen it on June 15. The decision to close the arena for the six-week period was done to wipe out a high demand charge that has caused large power bills at the arena. Once the charge is dismissed and the improvements complete, the energy costs at the arena should shrink.

“The Northern Lights Arena is our number one priority. That is why we did what we did in closing it down,” VanWormer said.

Ludlow said the county did not have a public hearing for taking out of the bonds. She said public notice was given in an ad and nobody requested one.

“The referendum was put in the paper in mid-February and people had 45 days if they wanted to file the petitions to have a hearing,” Ludlow said.

The project will include energy efficient lighting upgrades at all of the county buildings. Some of the improvements will include LED lighting. The facilities also will receive new weather stripping and caulk. Water saving measures will be taken at all of the building listed in the contract.

NLA will have a new low-emissive ceiling installed that will help to regulate hot and cold air placement in the rinks and will get new transformers.

The jail, NLA, Plaza Pool, fairgrounds, annex, courthouse and airport will have new heating, ventilation and air conditioner systems replaced and the jail will also receive a new boiler and hot water heater.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at