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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Energy Savings Plan at Gracedale Detailed

Gracedale may have a declining census, but the cost of utilities at the County nursing home has skyrocketed. Last year alone, the cost was $2.5 million, which includes 550,000 gallons of fuel oil. Executive John Stoffa was presented with a list of $20 million in serious capital deficiencies, is hoping to use energy savings to pay for them.

McClure Company, a PPL subsidiary, has come up with a guaranteed energy plan that will save Northampton County $16.2 million in energy costs over the next ten years. Those savings will be used to finance $12.9 of the $20 million in improvements needed, at no cost to the taxpayer. If savings falls short, McClure will have to make up the difference.

That's what was presented at Council's Finance Committee yesterday. Colin McEvoy has an excellent description of this complicated shuffling of money in The Express Times. The purpose of this blog post is to explain exactly what needs to be done.

1) Sanitary Sewer System - It needs to be upgraded. Right now, the County is facing a $1,000 per day fine from the Nazareth Borough Municipal Authority. This requires immediate action to avoid penalties, but the permitting process alone will take from 6 to 9 months.

2) Grease Interceptor. - The county is required to upgrade the existing grease interceptor with a 20,000 gallon underground tank.

3) Steam Boiler Plant. - The current boilers are between 40-50 years old, use only fuel oil and are grossly oversized. This causes erratic and inefficient operation. McClure will replace them with properly-sized boilers that can operate on both gas and fuel oil. McClure wants to convert to natural gas before Winter to avoid a dependency on fuel oil during the 2012 fuel season. This action alone will result in an immediate savings of $80,000 per month.

4) Air Handling Units. - 17 air handling units on the roof, between 40-60 years old, are extremely inefficient and present ongoing comfort and maintenance issues. They will be replaced with more efficient, variable speed units. In addition to being cheaper, they will make Gracedale more comfortable for residents. Replacement will require detailed coordination with staff and residents. There is more flexibility now because the census is low.

5) Tower roof. - It needs to be replaced.

6) Tower and main building. - The main electrical switchgear needs to be replaced.

7) Water tank. - A 500,000 gallon water tank is 10 years overdue for reconditioning.

8) Hot water. - Temperatures are inconsistent. In some cases, too hot. In others, to cold. This is a DOH violation.

If County Council approves the McClure Compny energy plan tonight, final engineering will be complete in November and December. Work will start work in January and be done by year's end. Stoffa told Council it would take the County at least five years before a shovel hit the ground because of all the bidding and other requirements placed on government.


Anonymous said...

Well with that savings it looks like shrimp and fillet mignon is back on the menu for the employees at the lunch buffett.

And forget about giving up Fidel Castros Birthday as a paid holiday.

Is there a link to the current census that I can access daily/weekly?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No. Stoffa periodically reports it to Council.

Anonymous said...

It would take the county five years under Stoffa. He moves slower than the seasons. I wish we had a real county executive.

We need knowlege, experience and leadership. My hope is we get that after the next election.

Anonymous said...

If Stoffa had been doing his job for the past six years we would not be up against the wall today. He is a sad excuse for a leader.

Anonymous said...

Something seems too good to be true here. Angle is questioning this one pretty hard. Sounds a bit risky and almost like the so called swaption deals.

Anonymous said...

So instead raise taxes 30 per cent to accomplish the same thing ? Stoffa is brilliant !

Bernie O'Hare said...

Angle had concerns about this when it was proposed at the courthouse and prison. He was satisfied when PL agreed to back McClure, a third party review was included and there was some kind of warranty for materials purchased. I imagine he might be satisfied if that occurs here, too.

Anonymous said...

I wanted the place sold and voted the right way in a losing effort. But this is a startling indictment of Stoffa's and council's management over the past six years. What a mess. I say do nothing and let the state close the place. The residents already receive shitty care.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is a startling indictment of Stoffa, who has been there for six years.? Or some Council members, who have been there for two?

Stoffa gradually became aware of just how run down Gracedale was during his first term. In his second term, he made the decision to sell, and part of the reason is his recognition that there asre some things government just does not do well. Part of this is exactly these kinds of capital improvements.

If the County wanted to go for a sewer upgrade on its own, it would take 5 years. There would be RFPs and competitive bids out the wazoo. Pro-union Council members would be screaming for PLAs.

Now that the people have spoken and have said to keep Gracedale, i think the use of an ESCO to accomplish these improvements is innovative and reflects a desire to get things done at the minimum cost to taxpayers.

Perhaps you think Stoffa should have taken action on all these things in his first term, but that was impossible. He had an unfriendly Council that attempted to prevent him from doing anything. And yes, he is a bit ponderous and is unwilling to rush in and do something. hen somebody suggests something, it is often bc there is something in t for that person. So it takes him time to evaluate these things and make his own decision.

He might be slow and even I don't always agree with him, but when Stoffa decides something, it is because he thinks it is what is right. He is the County Exec. Nobody else.

Anonymous said...

PPL. They're such good guys. They're a "regulated" territorial monopoly that sent their subsidiary in to profit off the increased rates by structuring energy savings around them.

They are such good corporate citizens.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick and tired of all the negativity and whining I see on this site. It is so easy for the person who has no responsibility to sit back and criticize.
This sounds like a good plan. Let's go with it.

Anonymous said...

The name of this blog should be,"1001 excusues why John Stoffa can't do anything".

Anonymous said...

Agree. Six years is long enough to accept ownership of the mess. The best his defenders can come up with "the last guy was even worse." I held my nose and voted for him because the alternatives were worse. They still are. This is apparently the best we can do. He's only ever taken a government paycheck. This is what comes from that culture.

Anonymous said...

With Gracedale sitting on 365 acres of land, why hasn't Solar Panels & Windmills been installed on some of this land to supplement and reduce power consumption? Schools districts are putting Solar Panels in, Binney & Smith (Crayola) has put them in. Numerous homes have windmills. Why rent out the land to grow field corn and soybeans, which no one I know eats and it's not grown to feed any farm animals either.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll pass this idea along. It sounds logical.

Anonymous said...

Solar panels are a joke. They don't generate enough power to be worth it. This isn't Florida or Arizona. The payback for most solar farms is 30 years and by then the technology is obsolete. Wind farms are another canard. There isn't enough wind out there to generate squat. Wind turbines are ugly and kill birds and bats. Geothermal is about the only real practical alternative energy for that area.

Anonymous said...

hey anon 1:14, i've been and employee for many years, and i never never reecieved shrimp or filet mignon at any luncheon given to us. So shut the trap! we on occ. get hamburgers, hot dogs.. or maybe a slice of ham at easter. if you don't know what you are talking about, don't comment! .. you have no idea what you are talking about!!!!

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...
Agree. Six years is long enough to accept ownership of the mess. The best his defenders can come up with "the last guy was even worse." I held my nose and voted for him because the alternatives were worse. They still are. This is apparently the best we can do. He's only ever taken a government paycheck. This is what comes from that culture.

2:09 PM "

I blame BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH (and Reibman)!


Barack OStoffa

Anonymous said...

There are some good people out there. I am hoping one I know runs for office. He would make a great county executive.

Smart, experienced and has common sense. Something these gys seem to lack.

Anonymous said...

No matter what you think of Stoffa, I think you should rethink your position on career politicians.
In the days of Washington and Jefferson it was possible for a gentleman landowner to step away from his estate for a few years to run the government. Government then was much more simple and could be grasped more quickly.
Today government is huge and costly and complicated.
I think it makes sense for someone to make a career of it so someone has an in depth understanding of how all the various parts of government work. It takes years to have that level of expertise.

Anonymous said...

Agree. It's best to have someone completely removed from the real world and insulated in the bureaucracy running things for everyone. Many successful banana republics have proven this theory.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the "Stoffa experience" has really worked out well for the county.
Are you kidding me??

I agree with your basic premise and I think that someone with strong county operational knowledge is great but also some private sector experience.

Stoffa has been sucking the public tit forever. His "experience" hasn't hepled in any situation only as being known as the most incompetent county executive in history.

In this case, Stoffa was not the one.

Anonymous said...

Why did the Channel 69 News, lead with solar panels are being installed at Gracedale?

Confused in Bethlehem Twp.

Anonymous said...

Don't know. But I love the weather with Cathy Craine.

Warm regards,
Someone Who's Never Seen A Professional Weather Report