County Receives $500,000 energy grant from state

Money will help replace Courthouse’s 100-year-old boiler

OKANOGAN – The state Department of Commerce awarded a $300,000 grant to Okanogan County to assist in various energy and operational cost improvement projects for the courthouse, jail and administration building.

A total of $18 million in grants were awarded to 12 higher education institutes and 37 local governments. The immediate goal of Department of Commerce grant program is to stimulate local economy by creating jobs; the long term goal is to reduce energy costs for public agencies. An estimated 543 jobs will be created by this construction spending. The total cost for all the projects is more than $66 million, including more than $48 million in non-state funding.

“This is precisely the sort of program we need as we work to rebuild our economy,” said Gov. Jay Inslee when announcing the grants last week. “These grants will reduce energy costs, provide training opportunities to students and create jobs in the clean energy sector.”

The project Okanogan County submitted for grant funding includes several significant energy efficiency components, according to the Department of Commerce. The most critical is the replacement of the original diesel-fueled boiler that has been heating the courthouse for the last 100 years. There are real concerns the antiquated system will soon fail. This would be catastrophic to the operation of the courthouse and the safety of the employees. With the help of grant funds, the expensive and inefficient boiler system will be replaced with modern geothermal heat pump technology that will not only provide heating and cooling for the courthouse, but will be integrated into a system providing efficient heating and cooling in the jail as well. Other conservation measures include replacing the single-paned wood windows in the courthouse with energy efficient architectural windows, installing energy management control systems, adding water conservation devices, and upgrading interior and exterior lighting including light and motion sensors.

Last summer, the county contracted with Ameresco, an Engergy Services Company, to perform the initial energy audit, document baseline energy consumption and identify cost effective energy conservation measures eligible for grant funding. A grant application was then submitted to the Department of Commerce in early January and awarded last week. Ameresco will work on behalf of the county as the general contractor and construction manager for the project design and construction meetings will begin immediately and when the project design is complete and approved by the county, bids will be solicited and sub-contractors selected. The project is expected to be complete within two years.

The grant was awarded through a highly competitive process based on the county’s ability to contribute funding for the project, the deep energy efficiency savings, and the ability to start the project immediately. The county will receive an approximate $128,500 energy incentive from Okanogan County PUD to help offset the project cost. The project is expected to pay for itself through energy and operational cost savings over a period of 15 years, adding value to public facilities and to the community.

“The upgrades provided by these grants, such as new lighting, boilers and water-saving plumbing, put people to work right away, and the energy efficiencies will save money for Washington taxpayers well into the future,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “The program stretches grant dollars by leveraging funding from non-state sources.”

The 2012 Legislature appropriated $20 million to higher education and $18 million to local governments, including a specific set aside of at least 10 percent for small cities or towns (populations of 5,000 or less). There have been two rounds of awards. The first recipients were announced in August 2012.