March 30, 2011

Frugality fuels change at police department

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- With an eye on the bottom line, the Derry Police Department will soon ditch propane heat for natural gas, a move town officials say will save the town thousands each year.“The gas company has estimated a roughly 40 percent savings,” said Derry police Capt. George Feole. “That’s a pretty big number, and it should take us only a little over a year or so to realize the payback on the project.” The police department spent about $9,500 on 7,300 gallons of propane gas to heat the main police station and the four-bay police and fire maintenance building last year, said Feole. In the current fiscal year, the department is expecting those costs to come in at around $13,000 and, without a change, Feole said staff have estimated costs could reach $17,000 in the upcoming fiscal year. 
But with natural gas, Derry Public Works Director Mike Fowler said the town could be saving more than $10,000 on that amount for next year. 
While the town has yet to collect bids to retrofit the police station for natural gas, Fowler said he estimates the work will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to complete. 
National Grid has said they will be ready to connect to a new 400-foot pipe from the police station to the existing natural gas line along Folsom Road in front of the station in May, Fowler said. Then, he said, it would likely take a contractor about two weeks to retrofit the station buildings. 
National Grid has also offered the town a $3,500 incentive to cover some of the connection costs, Feole said. 
“When we look at the cost of the infrastructure conversion in our buildings and factor in the incentive from the gas company, we predict that the payback to the community on this investment will be no more than two years,” Feole said. 
Upfront project costs will be covered by the existing police budget, Fowler said. 
Town staff considered making a similar switch to natural gas several years ago, Feole said, but the savings at the time were not enough to balance out the changeover costs. 
But after energy audits of town facilities this fall, Fowler said the police station was again identified as a possible location for natural gas updates. 
“We started to put the numbers together to see whether or not it might make sense,” said Fowler. “I think it’s a win-win for National Grid and the town because we’ll be saving a lot of money.” 
The audits, conducted by Boston-based consultant Peregrine Energy Group, were funded as part of the New Hampshire Energy Technical Assistance and Planning program using federal stimulus money. The town’s Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee worked with the town and Peregrine to conduct the audits. 
“Everything has fallen into place really nicely,” said energy committee chairman Tom Minnon on Tuesday. “The town is on the right track and has been for some time in looking for ways to save energy and ultimately taxpayer money. This is definitely a good way to be spending out money when we can see such a return on investment.” 
The Derry Municipal Center and the Central Fire Station are already heated by natural gas, he said. 
While natural gas was not an option during the renovations to the Veterans Memorial Hall, Fowler said other energy-efficient updates have already shown an 11 percent savings in heating costs in February over last year. This February was also 20 percent colder than last year, he said. 
And with a tight budget looming, Fowler said the town is ready to move on these kinds of cost-saving measures. 
“Dollars are limited, and we’re looking for any place we can save,” said Fowler. “Fuel usage just makes sense.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment