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home : columnists : columnists September 21, 2017


9/13/2017
Commissioners response to oversight comments
Guest Column
Hamilton County Commissioners


The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners are writing in response to a recent article by County Councilman Fred Glynn regarding the Hamilton County Jail Complex Solar Project. We believe that additional facts and context would be helpful for Hamilton County taxpayers to determine if a state sanctioned guaranteed energy contract, generating an estimated net savings of over $12,500,000 over 25 years, is a good investment.

Utilities are the County's second highest expense right behind our employee salaries/benefits. As the executive body, the Commissioners are always looking for opportunities to save money and reduce our risk of future expenditures. The Commissioners began exploring energy savings opportunities for our buildings in 2013 and implemented several cost savings improvements. These improvements have resulted in energy savings of $225,000 per year by installing new interior & exterior LED lighting, efficient Direct Digital Control systems with night setback as well as heating & cooling system upgrades.

The Commissioners originally brought the Jail Complex Solar Project to the Council in 2015. Everyone agreed at that time the Solar Project was not a good investment in that it did not generate a sufficient rate of return. Three important things have changed since 2015 which both make the Solar Project extremely beneficial and which have accelerated the timeline for installation -

1. The technology & the capacity of the solar panels have been significantly improved and electric rates continue to escalate.

2. In 2017 the Indiana General Assembly passed SB309 reducing net metering from 30 years to 15 years. Solar projects installed by December 31, 2017 avoid the reduction and receive the 30-year net metering. If this project continues to be delayed past the end of the year, the county will lose $2,889,000.

3. Tariff petitions pending before the International Trade Commission, if passed before the purchase of the panels will increase the cost of the Solar Project by $1,200,000.

The utility savings generated will pay for Solar Project in less than 10 years. These funds are already in the County utility budgets and the Solar Project will not result in a tax increase, but rather a net savings. The other benefit is that the County would be taking control of their energy use and avoiding future utility increases

Timeline:

May 10th, 2017 - Commissioner Altman personally met with Fred Glynn to explain the project and urgency to proceed

May 30th, 2017 - County Council was provided information on Solar Project

June 7th, 2017 - County Council was presented the Solar Project for consideration by Buildings & Ground Supervisor, Steve Wood

June 19th, 2017 - County attorney Mike Howard sent memo to the Finance Committee

June 19th, 2017 - Council Finance Committee Meeting

July 5th, 2017 - Council was presented again about the time constraints and importance of this project

August 2nd, 2017 - Council Meeting - Solar Project stayed tabled

August 16th, 2017 - Council Finance Committee Meeting

As you can see from the timeline above, President Fred Glynn had plenty of time to review and ask questions about this project but he did not. To date, after multiple requests, Mr. Glynn has not contacted the Commissioners, the Hamilton County Building & Grounds Department, the Johnson-Melloh Staff (engineering & installation firm) or references provided by County Staff.

The Hamilton County Commissioners fail to understand how any fiscally responsible County Council person would dismiss this project out of hand as a "pet project" without taking the time to review and discuss the same with the knowledgeable at hand.

Christine Altman

Steve Dillinger

Mark Heirbrandt

Hamilton County Commissioners

Related Stories:
• Fiscal Responsibility Requires Discipline and Oversight





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