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OTTUMWA — Installation of a new climate control system at Bridge View Center in 2016 slashed the facility’s electrical consumption, helping stabilize costs even as electrical rates rose.

In 2015, the facility used 1.15 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. Installation of the new system cut that by almost a third and saved the city well over $16,000. The savings were so substantial that only in 2018 did the bills begin to approach those from three years earlier.

The city had several motivations for replacing Bridge View’s HVAC systems. It was costly to maintain the original system, which used proprietary programming and equipment. There were also major improvements to technology in the 10 years since the center’s 2006 opening.

City Engineer Dwight Dohlman said there was another reason, too. He called the original HVAC system “problematic since start up,” saying it had not performed as predicted. The new system created savings.

“The reducing in usage that the electrical company measures. You can envision 100 lightbulbs on for one hour, that consumes one kilowatt hour,” Dohlman said.

Dohlman said comparisons for any one year can be problematic, but taking the final three years’ usage on the original system to the first three with the new one showed clear benefits. The city has avoided at least $88,300 in bills by having a more efficient system.

The city saw significant savings on natural gas, as well. The numbers were not as large as with electricity, but still amounted to more than $16,000 in savings. A change to Wood River as the natural gas supplier helped. Dohlman said it actually cut the cost per unit for gas.

When planning began for the replacement system, Dohlman said estimates suggested the city might save around $40,000 per year. That proved a good estimate when the city took into the energy costs along with the savings from repairs that were often needed on the old system.

“I think we’re right at that. We’re real close,” Dohlman said.

Councilman Matt Dalbey was impressed, saying it was “nice to see” those kind of savings at the city-owned facility.

The city is still looking at ways to save money on bills at Bridge View. Earlier this year exploration of the possibility of solar power found it might not be the best option at Bridge View, but other systems might be able to reduce peak power demands.

Council members also made some tweaks to the city’s laws during Tuesday’s session, though none that are expected to have a major effect. Updates to the plumbing and mechanical codes bring the city into compliance with state requirements, and will keep the code updated if the state adopts new versions.

A change to the fine for use of fireworks within city limits reflected the correct fine of $250. That’s the amount used prior to the city’s regulations that followed the state’s legalization of fireworks.

— Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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