Wednesday, October 20, 2010

County government slashes energy costs

Impact of 4-day week still undetermined

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County has saved more than $32,000 in costs since switching to the four-day workweek, county staff said today. But whether those savings can be attributed to the change in county hours has yet to be determined.

"We can only suggest a correlation," said Char Nelson, director of operations for Blaine County. "We can't say usage is down because of the 4-10 service model."

The county's latest data show a savings of more than $9,500 in energy costs for April, May and June when compared to those same months last year.

When those savings are added to energy and maintenance savings from the first and second quarters of the 2010 fiscal year, the county has saved an estimated $32,884, far surpassing the county's goal of $11,472 in savings.

More than $3,000 of this quarter's numbers were for buildings that are closed on Fridays, due to the new county schedule. Other savings included the costs of the old sheriff's office, which has been torn down since last year. The estimated costs of heating and maintaining that building, about $10,800 for the first three quarters of fiscal 2010, have been included in the estimated costs saved. However, the costs of heating the new public safety facility have gone up as dispatch services moved into the new building, somewhat offsetting the estimated savings.

Nelson said factors such as weather play a key role in the cost of energy in any given year. This accounts for the energy savings in buildings that are still open five days a week, she said.

Commissioner Tom Bowman questioned the true impact of the four-day workweek on energy savings during Tuesday's meeting.

"What you're saying is that [the savings] could be attributed to the weather and not the service model?" he asked Nelson.

"It certainly could be," Nelson said, adding that more data would be needed to draw a complete conclusion. However, she said that buildings that are closed one day a week are showing a significant savings in energy over buildings that are not on the four-ten schedule.

Nelson said she anticipates giving a full presentation of the county's energy savings, including reduction in carbon emissions from county vehicles, in early November.

Katherine Wutz:

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