City Manager Dave Ruller believes Kent doesn't just have green thumbs, but hands loaded with metaphorically green digits.
"Being good stewards of the environment is a critical part of the fabric of this community," Ruller said, referencing how the city was among the first communities in Portage County to embrace recycling decades ago. "Kent is pretty proud of its green heritage."
Besides being eco-friendly, one of Kent's recent environmentally conscious initiatives has resulted in thousands of dollars in savings to the city.
Service Director Gene Roberts said energyconservation projects have already resulted in nearly $100,000 in savings that will be enjoyed on an annual basis.
With the help of nearly $653,000 in grant funds, the city has replaced items ranging from light bulbs to HVAC units throughout 12 city facilities including fire stations and administrative offices during the last two years.
About $501,000 from federally administered Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds and about $151,000 from a Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council grant provided the financial support.
"It worked out perfectly for us because we didn't have to cover the front-end investment," Ruller said. "Any savings from day one was essentially savings in our pocket."
The project's foundation was laid in 2007 when, per the suggestion of Kent State University officials who were pursuing their own energy conservation initiative, the city had Ohio-based Brewer-Garrett Company review the city's options for cutting energy costs.
Grant money became available in 2009, and projects saw implementation in 2010.
Electricity costs at the 12 areas that saw improvements dropped by almost $80,000 between 2010 and 2012, and Roberts expects some factors to enable that savings to rise some by the end of year.
Replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones alone created a "tremendous" savings, he said, while a unique project to replace some equipment at Kent's Water Reclamation Facility has cut costs there by more than $53,000, or roughly 30 percent of the facility's energy costs.
That project, said Water Reclamation Facility Manager Robert Brown, involved replacing a device last year originally installed in the mid '80s that provides oxygen to beneficial bacteria via an aerating process with a $238,000 "turbo blower" that creates more air with less energy and in a better regulated fashion.
"What it's all boiled down to is it's saving a ton of money," Brown said. "We got it for nothing, and we were very, very fortunate for that. Even if we paid full price for this unit, our payback would be 2.8 years, and that's a pretty quick payback in this field."
Brown said the technology is so new and innovative -- he believes Kent is only the second entity in Ohio to install the turbo blower -- that he has been invited to speak at a wastewater meeting in Barberton next month to explain how and why the device is a smart investment.
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