Jersey City Council reviews measures to begin implementing energy savings program at caucus

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The Jersey City Council reviewed several measures, including a $9 million bond ordinance, needed to update the city’s aging infrastructure and implement their energy savings improvement program at their caucus meeting yesterday.

Screenshot via MicrosoftTeams.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Office of Sustainability Director Kate Lawrence explained the city is looking to save money on energy by updating buildings that are not energy efficient. Money from the bond ordinance would go towards updating the infrastructure.

Daniel Riggle, a consultant with Schneider Electric, who noted he lives in the city, described the plan to improve the city’s infrastructure.

“It’s not just about sustainability. We’re also focusing on reducing costs to Jersey City’s electrical costs, operations, and maintenance costs, to keep these facilities operational,” Riggle said.

He further explained that Schneider Electric did a comprehensive energy analysis and audit for the city. They found many projects that need to be done around the city.

“We know from Superstorm Sandy and the power outage last August that energy resiliency is important,” Riggle added.

Riggle noted the city would save $14.6 million in maintenance costs once the project is completed and the city has previously touted up to $21 million in savings over the next two decades.

He also said Jersey City currently spends $1,000 a day on outside HVAC contractors to cope with lingering issues.

Additionally, the energy audit performed by Gabel Associates noted that many of the buildings the city owns have unreliable heating and cooling with operations and maintenance costs increasing as they age that need to be energy resilient.

However, they lack funding for capital projects and maintenance. The buildings that need to be renovated include City Hall, the municipal courthouse, the Mary McLeod Bethune Center, firehouses, and police precincts.

Pending approval, Schneider would install solar panels on the roofs of the buildings to save money on electricity. Riggle argued the city would be able to recoup its investment. The city courthouse, the Records building and firehouses could all possibly have solar panels installed.

Riggle noted in his presentation that the Bethune Center has a leaky roof, water damage, and mold with unreliable heating and cooling with frequent issues that need to be replaced.

He also said that while it’s often used as a community center, but it could not be used at times due to poor HVAC issues.

“Even the Red Cross at times would not be able to use this facility because of the unreliable HVCAC system,” Riggle asserted.

They want to replace the HVAC system completely, improve the roof and add solar panels at the Bethune Center.

In addition, Pershing Pool has a 27-year-old boiler that needs to be replaced.

The municipal services complex on Linden Avenue also needs extensive renovations to ensure critical operations continue through outages.

Riggle pointed out that the five alternative energy EV vehicles are arriving shortly and once the building is renovated, the vehicles can be charged by connecting to the building.

“As far we know a first in the nation type of project. Ya know a renewable energy field microgrid that’s powering a sanitation fleet,” Riggle said.

Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro said that while they may create green jobs, the unintended consequence could cause people to lose more conventional positions.

In response, Riggle said no one would lose jobs under their plans and Jersey City would save money by being able to use fewer contractors.

Furthermore, he indicated that over 100 jobs would be created in HVAC, electrical work, roofing, and solar panel installing.

Ward F Jermaine Robinson noted that the report they initially had been given by Schneider Electric was different than the one presented.

Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson noted they had met a few months ago at the Bethune Center, and the plans looked different.

“Can you explain what changed from now until then?” he asked.

Riggle said that five sites that could have solar panels installed, such as the municipal complex at Jackson Square were considered, but were not ultimately added to their scope of work.

Lavarro was curious as to the different savings and incentives.

“What specific incentives are we talking about? State incentives? Federal?” he asked.

Riggle said there were different state government programs they could utilize to offset part of the cost.

“The state will give the city of Jersey City dollars for adopting or upgrading?” Lavarro asked.

“Yea, that’s correct,” Riggle said.

To that end, Riggle noted 70 percent of the cost of LED lighting will be paid for by the State.

“What’s the itemized budget for the bond dollars that we’re going to be um spending here in Jersey City?,” Lavarro asked.

Riggle explained it would cost $15.3 million and that portions of their budget not covered by what was in front of the council would be paid for by the state.

Council President Joyce Waterman and Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley were absent from the meeting and the council’s regular session will convene tomorrow at 6 p.m. via Microsoft Teams.