Four Alabama counties receive energy improvement grants

Posted by: Mario Hendricks - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Governor Bob Riley has awarded economic stimulus grants that will help four east-central Alabama local governments save money by cutting energy costs.

The grants will help fund upgrades to Wetumpka City Hall, Prattville's Autauga Creek Wastewater Facility, the Tallapoosa County Courthouse and the Russell County Judicial Center.

"Making energy-saving improvements to public facilities saves money and benefits taxpayers," said Riley. "Such projects can give an immediate economic boost to the community and are an investment that pays dividends for many years to come."

A $216,485 grant to the city of Wetumpka will enable the purchase and installation of new heating and air conditioning units, lighting upgrades and added insulation in the roof area of City Hall. City officials say the building, which houses the City Council chambers, library and municipal court, has not received any energy upgrades since its construction in 1975.

The city of Prattville will use a $229,175 grant to purchase and install a new aeration system and related equipment at the Autauga Creek Wastewater Facility. The aeration equipment will reduce energy costs and improve the oxygen levels in the system; without sufficient levels of oxygen, bacteria cannot biodegrade waste efficiently. City officials estimate that the upgrades will reduce operating expenses by approximately $72,000 per year.

A $103,949 grant to the Tallapoosa County Commission will enable the purchase and installation of new heating and air conditioning systems and lighting upgrades at the courthouse in Dadeville. Much of the equipment being used at the nearly 50-year old courthouse has been in service since its construction. New heat pumps and upgraded lighting systems will reduce annual energy consumption by approximately 30 percent and save more than $19,000 annually, according to county officials.

The Russell County Commission will receive a $250,000 grant to replace heating and cooling systems at the county Judicial Center. The three-story, 37,000-square-foot building has a heating system that was installed in the mid-1980s, and the cooling system has been in service since the early 1970s.  The systems, described as "dinosaurs" by the county administrator and the maintenance supervisor, cost more than $120,000 to operate and maintain in 2008. With the equipment upgrades, county officials expect to save nearly $40,000 annually. The savings will help retain county maintenance jobs at risk of being lost due to budget constraints.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants from funds made available to the state by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The grants are part of $9.6 million awarded by Riley as part of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. The program helps local governments and nonprofit organizations improve energy efficiency of facilities and vehicles, reduce fossil fuel emissions and create or retain jobs.

Riley notified Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis, Prattville Mayor Jim Byard, Jr., Tallapoosa County Commission Chairman Frank Tapley, and Chairman Mervin Dudley of the Russell County Commission that the grants had been approved.

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