OSWEGO – Oswego County government is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2008, Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann assembled the “Green Team.” The group, made up of representatives from county departments as well as local agencies and organizations, meets regularly to research, discuss and implement “green” projects.
O’Brien & Gere, a Syracuse-based engineering company, is working with the county on many of these projects thanks to stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“O’Brien & Gere is a leader in providing energy, environmental, water and facilities solutions to corporations, industries and municipalities,” said David Turner, “Green Team” member and director of the Oswego County Community Development, Tourism and Planning Department. “With their help, we are exploring every option and their respective consequences so we can make informed choices and wise investments in our operations and facilities relative to their impact on the environment. We are looking at county government in a truly comprehensive way to determine where we can use ‘green’ technology and save taxpayer’s dollars.”
The county began by conducting research to create a baseline of information about its energy use and costs. Energy audits have been conducted at most county facilities and included lighting, heating and ventilation systems, wind and solar power generation, recycling programs, and fuel performance.
Grant applications were prepared using this information and the county was able to secure $780,959 in state, federal and private sector funding which was matched with $261,387 of county funds for the completion of 19 separate projects. These improvements, when completed, are expected to generate an annual savings of nearly $173,000 taxpayer dollars providing a return of the county’s investment in less than two years. In addition, the cumulative effect of all these projects will help to avoid the generation of nearly 570 tons of greenhouse gasses each year.
The Oswego County Department of Solid Waste implemented single-stream recycling, which eliminated the need for residents to separate their materials and increased recycling practices in the county by 65 percent.
Additional grant funding helped convert an existing building into a household hazardous waste site. The budget for this process was reduced by nearly $40,000 and service increased to 50 percent more customers by using existing staff and designating specific hours of operation. This plan also helped reduce long wait lines which increased customer service and reduced damaging emissions to the atmosphere from idling cars.
The Oswego County Highway Department tested the performance of bio-diesel fuel in a 10-wheeled dump truck, representative of its fleet. The audit took place over an extended period of time to better measure its performance during the consumption of 1,800 gallons of fuel, through a variety of seasons and engine service. Maintenance logs showed no negative effects on the vehicle, and it was determined that bio-diesel fuel is an acceptable alternative to low-sulfur diesel fuel currently in use. However, the county has decided not to proceed with this fuel change-over because further consideration revealed a significant difference in cost.
“The concept is that every ‘green’ initiative will be evaluated as to its ultimate impact on the environment, the cost to county taxpayers, and any effect on our ability to provide the optimal levels of service to our constituents,” said Legislature Chairman Barry D. Leemann, District 4. “If the change is not positive for all of these considerations, we will not proceed.”
In a more recent change-over, the Oswego County Clerk’s Office purchased a new “green” car for its courier service. This vehicle travels nearly 50,000 miles each year between auto dealers in Onondaga County and NYS Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices in Oswego County. A messenger picks up registration paperwork at the dealership and returns it to the DMV office where it is processed. The service generates a 12.7 percent return on each transaction. The revenue pays for the car and the messenger, and turns a profit for the County Clerk’s Office, which oversees the DMV offices.
The new vehicle is a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta which features a TDI® (turbocharged direct injection) Clean Diesel engine that is fuel-efficient, produces 90 percent less greenhouse gas and claims 43 miles per gallon.
It is anticipated that the car will use 1,130 gallons of fuel each year, which is less than half of the 2,400 gallons that the previous car used. This would amount to an annual cost savings of $2,840, despite the fact that diesel fuel costs 15 cents more than regular gasoline. Over the next five years, this would save county taxpayers $14,200.
“With these projects already underway, we will continue to explore others,” said Turner. “Another venture we’re researching is our electricity consumption. We are looking at alternative solutions such as wind and solar generation at sites that are environmentally-appropriate and where a cost-benefit analysis demonstrates a reasonable return on taxpayer’s investment.”
Energy is a significant and growing portion of government’s costs and county leaders are working to identify realistic and economical actions that will manage, control and reduce the expenses associated with it.
Chairman Leemann added, “We will be diligent in our efforts to be responsible to the earth while being careful stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”
For more information about Oswego County’s “Green Team” and its projects, visit www.renewoswegocounty.org or call David Turner, director of the Oswego County Community Development, Tourism and Planning Department at 315/349-8292.