Douglas County officials say they're already seeing a payoff from a new energy-savings program.
Imagine how happy you'd be if you could cut your summer kilowatt usage by one-third -- particularly if your electric bills started coming in more than $3,000 lower than usual.
Bill Bell, Douglas County's maintenance director, knows the feeling.
Last year, Bell talked county commissioners into spending about $283,000 to retrofit the lighting and some mechanical systems for the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center and the Douglas County Courthouse.
Bell was particularly concerned about the all-electric JLE Center, which was racking up an average monthly electric bill of about $11,000. He predicted that the improvements would save the county at least $40,000 a year and that taxpayers would recoup their investment in about five and a half years.
Now that the county has received electric bills representing four full months of operation since all the modifications were installed, Bell is claiming bragging rights.
``We're going to end up doing a lot better than we anticipated,'' he said.
Through July, the county already had lowered its electric costs by $21,298 in 1995 compared with a year earlier, Bell said.
For example, the county's June electric bill was $8,903, a savings of $3,705 over the same month in 1994.
In addition to modifications of the heating and cooling system in the JLE Center, the county retrofitted nearly 900 light fixtures with energy-saving reflectors; switched an electric water heater for a natural gas model; and installed a state-of-the art computerized energy management system that reduces energy consumption when the buildings aren't in use.
Bell said the county also pocketed a $2,556 demand-side management grant from Kansas Public Service for installing the gas water heater.
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the energy savings will continue as a permanent expense reduction after taxpayers have recouped their $283,000 investment.
``Of course, that savings amount grows with inflation,'' Weinaug noted.