SOUTH PORTLAND — The city is poised to hire an outside consultant to perform a comprehensive energy audit of municipal buildings and recommend energy-efficient upgrades.
During a workshop Monday night, the City Council supported the idea of hiring Siemens Corp., a national company with an office in Scarborough that recently completed a similar audit of the city’s school facilities.
The council also expressed support for a proposal to rezone the former Hamlin School on Ocean Street, which will eventually house the city’s Planning and Development Department. The zone change would allow the city to rent unused space to private businesses.
City Manager Jim Gailey said a committee made up of Councilors Tom Blake and Patti Smith, school Buildings and Grounds Director Greg Marles and Assistant City Manager Erik Carson reviewed the proposals.
Carson said the group chose Seimens because of its desire to use as many local contractors and businesses as possible.
The company will conduct an energy audit and recommend efficiency upgrades, and outline and guarantee the savings associated with each project.
Carson said the city will not be required to pay any up-front costs, since Seimens will paid with money saved by the upgrades over a specified period of time.
Gailey said the council on May 17 will vote on whether to allow the School Department to sign a contract with Siemens that will authorize a list of projects and transfer savings to the company of a period of 15 years.
Gailey said the council will also vote on whether to sign a letter of intent with the company to audit 14 city buildings, including City Hall, Central Fire Station, libraries and the Community Center.
Marles said the schools expect to hire Siemens to make nearly $1.5 million in upgrades to the city’s five elementary schools and two middle schools, including a new boiler, low-flow toilets and improving energy control systems.
Marles said the district expects to bank about $500,000 in savings after Siemens has been paid.
Siemens Energy Services Marketing Manager Donald Bresnahan said the company will provide an initial assessment of the facilities within 45 days of signing the letter of intent. The full audit would take up to six months and may also include facilities not outlined in the contract, he said.
Hiring Seimens seemed to garner the support of the six councilors present at Monday’s workshop.
“This to me feels pretty much like a no-brainer,” Councilor Linda Boudreau said.
Blake said the audit should include all city buildings, including the Willard Beach snack shack.
“To me, this is just another step we’re taking in a long-term commitment from when we signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Agreement,” Blake said.
Regardless of the upgrades the city may or may not make, Smith said, the audit will at least let the city know areas that need to be addressed. She said she also hopes there will be a public education aspect to whatever upgrades are carried out.
“If you haven’t changed behaviors, then you haven’t captured full savings,” Smith said. “I’m just thrilled we’re at this point. The city is really moving in the right direction.”
In other business, councilors reviewed a proposal to rezone the former Hamlin School on Ocean Avenue from residential to limited business.
The former school is being used by the School Department. It agreed to vacate at the end of the fiscal year in June, so the Planning and Development Department, which rents space on E Street, can move in.
Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser is seeking the zone change so the city can have the option of renting two extra classrooms in the building and an additional portable classroom to private businesses.
“We, in government, are encouraged to be entrepreneurial,” Haeuser said of the need to find for revenue sources.
Gailey said the city has offered the portable classroom to the South Portland Land Trust.
The majority of councilors supported the proposed rezoning, which will not come forward for authorization until the schools move out.
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