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Dedham Selectmen Want to See Utility Cost Savings

With a new facilities director, the Board of Selectmen are pressing for utility cost updates.

 

The Siemens project to revamp and update several of Dedham's buildings with more energy efficient equipment was pitched to Town Meeting in 2010 as a project that will pay for itself.

But as selectmen evaluate the fiscal year 2013 budget, they're still waiting to see the cost savings.

"Debt service for that project was going to be funded from reduction in line items," board chairman Jim MacDonald said.

Selectmen are asking facilities staff to provided a breakdown of utility use for each building in order to track savings.

"I don't have it," said selectman Michael Butler at Thursday's meeting. "I don't know what's happening. I need it. It's sort of counterintuitive to see heat going up in next year's budget versus down."

The town's facilities next year will cost the town an estimated $4.5 million, including just over $2 million in utilities.

That number has only increased over the past two years as the Siemens project works toward full completion - scheduled for this summer.

If approved, the 2013 budget calls for an increase of $104,000 over 2012. The town does expect to spend $66,000 less on electricity in the next fiscal year, according to budget projections.

"I want to have an absolute lock on knowing that the contract we signed two years ago is going to deliver," Butler said.

Officials had hoped the energy savings would allow the town to put $500,000 each year to help pay down the $12.3 million bond it borrowed.

Town Administrator William Keegan said readings on utility systems would have to wait until the Siemens project is fully commissioned.

"We still haven't finalized the process of the systems," Keegan said.

The new Avery Elementary School accounts for a part of the increase, despite state-of-the-art energy systems. The new school is twice as large as the , and is expected to be used more often. Its utility bills for fiscal year 2013 are predicted to double the cost of the current school.

The budget proposal also asks for $20,000 to pay for utilities and upkeep at , the building in between and the .

"The best investment on that is to get rid of it," selectman Carmen Dello Iacono said. 

But tearing it down probably won't happen any time soon. Keegan said the firm in charge of the Dedham Square Improvement Project could use that building as a field office, and may help pay utility bills.

The old Avery will need $75,000 for utility and upkeep costs for 2013.

But some of the utility cost increases across town are out of the hands of officials as the cost of oil continues to rise.

"The bottom line is that we can't control the market prices of oil, but we can control our usage," Keegan said.

Dedham officials hope more efficient systems reduce energy consumption and lead to savings.

"It's the usage that is showing the savings, and the cost is whatever the market is," MacDonald said.

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