City seeks utility savings

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By Jimmie Earls

As more and more people scramble to save on energy costs and keep bills down, even city governments are looking for ways to cut back on spending. Case in point, the Springfield City Council’s decision to do some re-wiring of the lights at Idle Hour Park’s baseball fields.

The decision comes after Kentucky Utilities assessed a new rate fee onto the city a few months ago and it has tripled the electricity costs at the park. In her report to the council, Springfield city treasurer Laurie Smith said the city could save about $6,000 annually for lighting at the park. The most recent bill for electricity at the park from KU was $1,543.93.

“Our previous bills were running around $500 a month,” said Smith. “Because the lights pull so much power when they first come on, we were put into a new rate structure around April 1. From what I understand, this affects ballparks all around the state, not just Idle Hour Park, so a lot of people are having to deal with this.”

“It was really scary when we first met with (KU engineer) Larry Gilpin,” said Springfield public works director Glenn Mattingly. “It looked pretty in depth and involved. But after he did some research, it’s not nearly as bad as initially thought. At first, it looked like we would have to do a massive overhaul of the electrical work in the concession stand and that’s not the case now. Right now there’s one meter measuring all the electricity used on the top part of the park and that’s creating a surge. KU is going to put a meter on the side of the concession stand which will measure the two ball fields on top and the concession stand. Another meter will be put in by the high school’s field, which will measure that field.”

When KU inspected the fields, they were surprised at the amount of power used by the lights.

“When they measured, they turned those lights on and it was amazing the amount of power it took because the concession stand has to have a 500 amp meter to do what it has to do,” Mattingly added.

Mattingly also stated that the city currently owns the two power transformers at the park.

“We really don’t need to own those,” he added. “It’s a liability issue, and if one of them goes down, you’ve got to write a check right then, and we don’t need to be in that situation. After the work is done, KU will own the transformers and we won’t be liable for them. I don’t know what the cost will be, but we’ll be money ahead obviously if we can save $6,000 a year on electric. Mr. Gilpin has supplied us with a diagram, so we need to get some bids and get this done before bad weather gets here.”

The city has scheduled a pre-bid conference for Aug. 26 at 10 a.m. at Springfield City Hall, where those interested in bidding on the project can get a look at the plan.

The re-wiring will help save the city some money. Springfield Mayor John W. Cecconi told the council that the budget is tight and that expenses need to be kept to a minimum.

“The budget is tight and I don’t know what next year is going to offer,” he said. “We need to tighten our belts on some of these things, particularly on our festivals. The cost of doing the festivals has gone up in price, and I just don’t know how much money we can afford to give, if any. This is across the table. This past Fourth of July, the price of fireworks went up $1,500 to around $7,000 total. During the African-American Heritage Festival, we had several hours of overtime. We have the fall festival coming up and I don’t know what that’s going to cost. I just want you to take in consideration if you want to continue to fund these. Do you want to cut some payroll or what do you want to do? I love doing these things, especially for the young ones, but if the outflow becomes more than the inflow, then I’m going to recommend that we stop it. We won’t pick on one in particular, we’ll stop it all. Maybe 2010 will be better than 2009 and we can get some more money in, and maybe this talk will not have been necessary.”