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Riverhead considers energy performance contract

Riverhead officials are considering a plan to go green at municipal buildings that could save taxpayers nearly $10 million in the long run.

The company hired by the town in August to create a proposed energy performance contract, Johnson Controls International, presented its plan to the Town Board at a work session Thursday.

The energy performance contract is a contractual agreement that would see energy-efficient equipment installed on town property in exchange for energy and cost savings.

According to JCI account executive Chris Fitzsimmons, the contract would allow Riverhead to make building and infrastructure improvements that reduce energy use without tapping into capital budgets.

For example, LED street lighting would be installed town-wide as well as on the fields at Stotzky Park. At Town Hall, new interior LED lighting, window film and new energy-efficient boilers are proposed along with a new energy management system.

“You have an energy management system now, but it’s old. It’s antiquated,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said, adding that the new system can be controlled remotely.

The roof at Town Hall will also see improvements such as a new roof membrane and solar panels, which were also pitched for Town Hall West.

At the Shade Tree Lane Senior Center and George C. Young Community Center, new LED lighting is proposed with efficient energy management systems and vending machine controls which shut off if no one is nearby, Mr. Fitzsimmons said.

Energy improvements are also slated for the building department, highway department and municipal garage, sewer district and police station buildings under the proposal.

“These are things you’re gonna be spending money for anyway,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said of the capital improvements.

To accomplish the projects, the town would reallocate budgeted utility and operational costs into the capital improvements — and would not need to increase taxes, Mr. Fitzsimmons said.

The projected cost of the projects is $5.5 million, but the energy savings will offset the payments, Mr. Fitzsimmons said. The contract would extend over 20 years and result in positive annual cash flow, he added.

In the first year, the town would see $498,925 in savings and upwards of $9.8 million two decades from now. JCI has pledged to cover shortfalls in its projections and lease payments, estimated at $386,460 annually, would not begin until the projects are completed.

If approved, Mr. Fitzsimmons said the projects could be finished by July or August 2019.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked if cost savings could be identified on a building-by-building basis, to see where savings can be maximized since the police and justice court could potentially be moving to a new location. 

Mr. Fitzsimmons said the proposal was drafted in layers to account for cost savings. 

“We want to capture the savings from lighting to pay for the roof,” he said.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said it still makes sense to get the projects done even if the justice court is relocated. 

“I think it’s unlikely that we will not use that building,” she said, for another municipal use.

It’s unclear when the board will decide on the proposal, but Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said she was excited about it. 

“There’s a lot of things in here that need to get done,” she said. “To be able to do that basically with it being cost neutral because of the savings we can realize through the lighting … I think that’s a win-win for the taxpayers of the town.”

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Photo caption: JCI account executive Chris Fitzsimmons gave the presentation to the Town Board Thursday. (Tara Smith photo)