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Franklin Co. plans energy review

December 23, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Franklin County spends about $1 million per year to heat, cool and light 600,000 square feet of building space, an expense the county plans to trim by educating its employees, upgrading facilities and equipment, and implementing different energy purchasing strategies.

The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday authorized the administration to move forward with an energy review and begin measures to cut consumption of electricity, natural gas and gasoline.

One area where the county is apparently already trying to cut consumption is heating. Thermostats in the commissioners' office were set and locked at 68 degrees.

Steve Rock, the county's director of Engineering and Property Management, said the deregulation of electric utilities is set for 2011 and rates could increase 50 percent or more. The county has taken some measures to reduce the use of electricity - replacing incandescent with fluorescent bulbs, using more energy-efficient equipment and preventive maintenance - and more can be done.

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"Our staff understands we don't buy anything unless it's energy-efficient," Rock said.

The review was prompted by the increase in energy costs, such as gasoline, that spiked in the summer, along with the looming increases from electric deregulation, Rock told the commissioners.

The county can control consumption of energy, but market-driven unit prices are another matter, County Administrator John Hart said.

In 2008, the county has spent $588,498.69 for electricity and $343,906.52 for natural gas for a total of $932,405.21, according to county figures. Oil heat mostly is used for backup systems and is not a large percentage of the county's consumption, Rock said.

Daily tips, brochures, newsletters and other methods will be used to educate employees on how to cut consumption, Human Resources Director John Aguirre said. Employees will be encouraged to cut usage not only at work, but at home, to reduce their "individual ecological footprint," he said.

Purchasing Director Brenda Covert said the county can consider joining an energy purchasing consortium with other governments, businesses or nonprofit groups to reduce costs; consider different electric rate schedules for some facilities; take advantage of energy rebate programs; and transition to more energy-efficient vehicles.

The county operates a fleet of 99 vans, trucks and sedans, according to county figures.

Rock said building energy retention is another area where consumption can be cut. A single pane window, for example, transfers heat at about 15 times the rate of an energy-efficient, double-pane insulated window.

The 2009 budget does include money to replace some windows at the county's Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Hart said. As it has in the past, reducing energy use will be looked at whenever the county remodels a building, he said.

The county also can look into power generation, such as windmills at some of its properties, Rock said.

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