City council votes to expand energy projects
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 02:04
Newark city council members voted to expand a contract with the city’s energy supplier to lower energy costs and initiate plans to replace local water meters at a Monday night meeting.
The council approved a plan to receive energy from the Freemont Energy Center, a new natural gas plant in Ohio. The plant was recently acquired by American Municipal Power Incorporated, a nonprofit corporation that owns and operates regional electric facilities.
The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation and the city of Newark have been under contract with the company since October 2003 for “full requirement services.” Under the contract, the corporation owns the rights to 13.8 percent of the company’s “electrical capacity and associated energy.”
Partnering with the plant can decrease energy costs by 15 to 20 percent.
District 4 Councilman David Athey said he was concerned that under the terms of the contract, the city could have to pay for more energy than the city uses.
Newark Mayor Vance A. Funk III called the partnership a “good source of cheap energy,” and the council approved it unanimously at Monday’s meeting.
Interim city manager Carol Houck proposed a plan to replace the city’s water meters with electrical smart meters. She said the city needs approximately 100 new meters, and would like to invest in a new infrastructure that would work with evolving technology. She said many other cities have similar systems.
The meters would record water levels every hour and send the information through a Wi-Fi connection.
Houck said the upgrade could save money because fewer city employees will have to travel to check the meters. She said she would like to work with state-approved energy contractor Honeywell International, a company that produces commercial and consumer products, because the conglomerate is already working in Newark and its employees are familiar with the city’s infrastructure.
“They’ve been with us all along. They have an advantage because they have so much information about utilities, the locations and things, the meters, and things,” Houck said. “They’re at a little bit of a better position than bringing in someone fresh.”
A representative from Honeywell said the meters are guaranteed to work and would be under warranty for 15 years. She said the data recorded by the meters would catch leaks early on, potentially saving the city $1 million in operation costs.
An estimate from Honeywell states that the project could cost $9.7 million to install only the water meters and could save the city more than $16 million after 15 years.
Houck said she is researching different sources for funding, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides funds for building improvements in the city.
District 6 Councilman Stu Markham said if the price was reasonable, he thinks the project is a valuable idea.
“I think that this is an investment in a project where we’re taking money that we would have spent anyway,” Markham said.