Worthington leaders are considering spending up to $3.2 million on improvements aimed at making municipal facilities more energy efficient.

About $2 million in improvements already is budgeted and is scheduled for a public hearing and potential vote by Worthington City Council on Monday, April 2.

Last year, City Council commissioned facilities-services company ABM to conduct a study on city facilities in order to identify areas that could be more energy efficient.

Six months later, ABM submitted its recommendations, identifying areas of possible improvement, such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, lighting and water conservation.

Robyn Stewart, Worthington's assistant city manager, helped facilitate the report.

She said she and other city leaders were pleasantly surprised with the depth ABM provided.

"If anything, they took it much more broadly and looked at more items than we necessarily expected, going in," she said.

Council President Bonnie Michael said the study was "very much needed" and something council has prioritized in recent years.

"I think there's been a focus on energy conservation and sustainability for a little while; it's just taken budget money and time to be able to assess all the equipment," she said.

Recommendations came in two phases, both of which ABM representatives believe would save the city more money over 15 years than the work would cost.

For the first phase, ABM identified issues in the community center, fire station and the Griswold Center, providing a variety of solutions that would cost just over $2 million. Over 15 years, ABM said, the city would save nearly $2.7 million in energy costs.

In advance of appropriations for the cost of the work, the city budgeted the necessary funds in its 2018 capital-improvements program and the money is available in the capital-improvements fund.

The most expensive portion of the work would be HVAC systems and lighting in the community center; the city plans to use bonds to fund the $1 million budget for the work, according to the 2018 capital-improvements plan.

In the second phase, which has yet to be approved or funded, fixes would focus primarily on the police station, fire station, service-and-engineering building, municipal building and planning building.

The work, similar in scope to the first phase, would cost about $1.1 million, and ABM estimates the project would result in savings of $1.3 million over 15 years.

A decision on that portion of the work, Stewart said, likely would come during capital-improvements planning later this year.

Stewart said ABM was chosen for the project partly due to its ability to identify the issues, but also "their ability to implement and install those solutions," meaning Worthington would use the company for the remainder of the work.

Because the city would use ABM to implement the proposed changes, the evaluation didn't cost the city anything.

"Essentially, the cost is put toward the improvements," Stewart said.

Michael said she is happy City Council has taken steps toward being "good stewards of our infrastructure," but the financial aspects aren't all council members are concerned about.

"It's not only the money we're saving, but it's also how much we're doing to help improve the environment," she said. "It's not just savings for the city, but it's also saving the environment."

Stewart said she believes city leaders are working hard to emphasize sustainability and responsible use of resources.

"It is certainly a priority of City Council," she said. "I think we're also doing a better job of highlighting and talking about the initiatives we're pursuing. We've done green and sustainable initiatives for a number of years and we've done some various initiatives, but I think we're doing better with talking and communicating about what we're doing."

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