Harrisonburg Energy Efficiency Improvement Opportunity

footprints on courthouse

From Councilmember Kai Degner regarding the May 14, 2013 council vote on funding city building energy efficiency:


Thank you for your support in the last months for the performance contract for the Public Safety Building.  Your advocacy, along with others, produced a 3-2 vote on Tuesday night FOR performance contracting on the Public Safety Building AND smaller investments in a few other buildings.

You can see the discussion at the City Council meeting at this link: http://harrisonburg-va.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=118&meta_id=6466

My personal preference was to assign the contract directly to ABM as they have twice been selected by CIty staff to provide the best value to the City; however, it became evident to me in the discussion that I may not get the third vote on a motion identifying ABM as the contractor.  So, the specific motion approved 3-2 directs the City Manager to pursue performance contracting and report back by the end of July about how to make that happen, including giving performance contractors additional to ABM a chance to bid on the project.

Please also note in the discussion (video) that Mayor Byrd, who did not support the motion, did suggest that council could create broad energy savings goals, and hold staff accountable to meeting them.  This approach, I believe, is possible strategy to adopt in pursuit of having the city pursue energy and other sustainability goals.

This is a major step forward in making this project happen, and I believe the project would not have received these three votes without your advocacy.  I hope this is encouraging and motivating for all of us to continue this work.

Thank you-   Kai


An energy efficiency proposal for Harrisonburg’s Public Safety Building (see Councilmember Kai Degner’s description below) elicited considerable public comment during the April 23, 2013 council meeting. The Council scheduled a work session to address concerns on Wednesday, May 1 from 4-7 at the Council Chambers. The public was welcome to attend but not offered input during the session.

According to this May 2, 2013 Daily News Record account by Preston Knight: “At the behest of Harrisonburg residents who spoke in favor of energy improvements during a recent public hearing, council discussed energy savings in its buildings.

But the main target for savings — the Public Safety Building on North Main Street — is a freestanding project outside the normal budgeting process, officials say.

That resulted in no changes to the budget proposal during Wednesday’s work session, at least not from sustainability efforts.”

The budget will come to a vote at the May 14 council meeting before which voters continue to have an opportunity to contact their council members and city manager asking that sustainability measures for the city be funded.

Local attorney and energy efficiency advocate Tom Domonoske offers this strategy:

“If 100 people contact the City Council and ask for energy efficiency modifications to public buildings and a sustainability coordinator position to be put in the budget, then the Council will have a hard time not doing so.  The next meeting is May 14 where the council will vote on the budget.

The emails can go to ‘Kurt.Hodgen@harrisonburgva.gov‘; ‘Ted.Byrd@harrisonburgva.gov‘; ‘Charlie.Chenault@harrisonburgva.gov‘; ‘Richard.Baugh@harrisonburgva.gov‘; ‘Kai.Degner@harrisonburgva.gov‘; ‘Abe.Shearer@harrisonburgva.gov

Letters can be sent to:  City Manager’s Office, Room 201, 345 South Main St., Harrisonburg, VA 22801, with a request to forward them to City Council.  Telephone calls can be made to the same office at 540-432-7701.  Faxes can be sent to 540-432-7778.

The message should be: ‘ I am a city resident, and I ask the City Council to fund energy-efficiency renovations to our buildings. and to create a city staff position to develop energy reduction, energy efficiency, and sustainability practices.’ ”

See Tom’s letter to the council and City Manager Kurt Hodgen regarding the “2014 Budget, Energy Efficiency, and Sustainability Coordinator” here.

Please read the HR Green Network and Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s letter to the council and city manager in support of energy efficiency and a sustainability coordinator by clicking here.


Austin, TX was able to prevent having to build a new power plant by conducting comprehensive building energy efficiency improvements. See Conservation Power Plant from the film Kilowatt Ours.

Here in Harrisonburg we have an opportunity to improve the energy usage of some of our public buildings thereby reducing our carbon footprint and saving money.

A proposal to improve the energy use of the Public Safety Building is part of the 2014 budget.  The Tuesday, April 23 council meeting included a public hearing on the budget. Councilmember Kai Degner is supporting the energy efficiency measure for public buildings. Here were his comments on the issue before the April 23 meeting:

I need your help to help save half a million Harrisonburg tax payer dollars from being wasted in inefficient buildings this year.  There are doubts that enough Harrisonburg residents would prioritize this project, so it may not happen.

Please read below and plan to attend the April 23rd (Tuesday) City Council meeting at 7PM.  Join the public comment session to express your opinion (either way).

To learn more, I’ll be at the Artful Dodger at 8pm this Wednesday(4/17) and Thursday(4/18), and at 1pm on Sunday (4/21).

Hi everyone,

The City Council has an opportunity to redirect $100,000+ from annual unnecessary utility costs towards energy efficiency upgrades in the City’s Public Safety Building.  The City School Board has their own opportunity to redirect $400,000 of unnecessary utility costs towards energy efficiency upgrades using the same “Performance Contracting” concept.

The City of Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg City Schools have contracted with an Energy Services Company (ESCO) to study and implement energy- and water-saving facility upgrades using a “Performance Contracting” approach.  Performance contracts are 100% self-funding and are completed within existing budgets – without raising taxes.  Basically, borrow money to fix the worst efficiency problems out there, save money on utility costs, and use the annual savings to repay the loan over time.  By using the State of Virginia’s Performance Contracting Process, savings are guaranteed for up to 20 years.  Savings are measured annually, and, if they fall short, the contractor pays the difference.

Based on the study of Harrisonburg’s buildings and infrastructure, major reductions in the City’s operating costs and carbon footprint can be achieved in the Public Safety Building by replacing obsolete and end-of-life equipment, tuning up buildings, training occupants and staff, engaging students with energy awareness curriculum, and diligently tracking the energy usage over time.

The costs of these efficiency-related activities in the Public Safety Building is about $2 Million.  That sounds crazy expensive, maybe, until you figure we spent $189,000 last year on utility costs for this SINGLE building, and we will again next year if nothing changes.  Instead, we could use about $110,000 of those costs to repay a loan to make the improvements.

Over 15 years, the City’s savings in utility and operating costs would be $3 Million (factoring in that electric costs increase modestly every year). Incidentally, the school’s proposed costs would be a seemingly-whopping $6.5 Million – but they stand to save $8 Million over 15 years.

For those concerned with carbon: together, the annual CO2 reduction is 3,745 Metric Tons (equivalent to electricity for 561 homes every year for 15 years or equivalent to taking 700+ cars off the road for a year every year for 15 years).

For those concerned with economic development: we are trying to designate Harrisonburg as an “innovative” community.  What’s innovative about blowing half a million tax dollars out of inefficient buildings?  Let’s instead redirect this tax payer money into sensible infrastructure improvements.

For those concerned about politics: performance contracting is supported by the Republican-controlled Virginia government, and has been supported by both Democratic and Republican governors.

Harrisonburg utilized this process in 2009 to reduce energy consumption at the Community Activity Center at Westover Park (some of you might remember this success story presented immediately after we approved $1 Million for bicycle infrastructure this past Fall).  It worked, even better than predicted.

I believe we should do it again, but I don’t think there is enough public support to guarantee it will happen.

Will you attend Tuesday’s Council meeting and speak in support of the Performance Contracting for the Public Safety Building?  Your attendance at the meeting and other communications (or lack thereof) can help influence this decision.

I’ll be at the Artful Dodger 8pm this Wednesday and Thursday and at 1pm on Sunday (April 17, 18, 21) if you want to learn more.

Thank you for all you do to make Harrisonburg a great place to live.

Harrisonburg City Councilmember

Here are some links to performance contracting about the Performance Contracting process:
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