Chatham County is one of 64 communities around the state that was recently awarded a grant to improve energy efficiency through the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.
The money, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka, the stimulus package, will help save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs every year.
The County will receive a total of $300,000, which will go toward several different projects. About $210,000 will be used for retro–fitting lighting and air–conditioning.
$75,000 will be used to fund the Chatham Environmental Forum’s county–wide assessment of green house gas emissions in order to set tangible reduction goals, and $15,000 will be used for an educational program about recycling and energy efficiency.
Two of the projects where the money will be used is insulating windows in the Old Courthouse, which will net a 60 percent reduction in energy loss, and adding a new water heating system to the courthouse on Montgomery Street.
The water heating system will represent major savings for the county, which had been using thousands of dollars of natural gas to heat large boilers for hot water.
“There’s something where we spend $5,000, but we save $30,000 per year,” says Monahan.
The county chose to pursue projects that involved retro–fitting aging, inefficient systems because about one third of the county’s energy costs are incurred by buildings, according to Monahan.
The reduction in energy costs will help the county meet its goal of reducing its energy consumption and carbon footprint by 15 percent.
“A 15 percent reduction in energy equates to about $350,000,” says Assistant County Manager Pat Monahan.
Some of the savings will be used to fund a new green jobs training program run by poverty reduction initiative Step Up Savannah.
“Their dedication to poverty reduction and being green, they’re marrying the two with this,” explains Step Up’s Executive Director Daniel Dodd.
The goal of the program is to work with other workforce development initiatives around the city to help identify potential entry level green jobs in the area train individuals for those jobs.
“Savannah, just like many communities around the country, is really scrambling to refocus on what it means to be green,” says Dodd. “The funding is going to allow us to bring green training, green job placement and green job identification.”
on the parameters of the grant, the money could be used to create a Green Jobs Coordinator for Step Up, someone knowledgeable about the industry and how to conduct training, who will oversee the efforts of the various community partners.
We’ll set the goals for the grant in front of this person and the council and looking at how we can expand beyond it and how to leverage it to make it go further,” he says.
Dodd also hopes to create a council of community stakeholders, including workforce development programs and employers, to discuss the needs of the businesses as well as the capabilities of the educational programs to optimize and expedite the output of newly–qualified applicants for green jobs.
“I want people who know this. It’s not my world,” he says. “I need experts from the community, people that know this world, and really understand what the employers needs are.”
For Step Up, whose mission is to battle the area’s troubling poverty statistics, the new program will allow them to do that and more – the benefits are economic, environmental and social.
“There’s a real link between poverty and crime,” says Dodd. “If we just keep on building prison, that’s great, but what are we doing to prevent this and get people working.”
Although they were still waiting on guidelines from the state on how the money could be spent, the County is expecting to begin work very soon on their upgrades, and will probably have the projects completed in the next two months.