Saving energy could save Kent residents money

Kira Meixner

Thanks to a new energy management policy, the city of Kent could save 20 percent of its natural gas costs within the next six years. This could result in lower taxes for Kent residents.

Gene Roberts, director of public service in Kent, said the potential savings are presently unclear because the city is only in its first year of the policy. According to Roberts, the city of Kent spent around $200,000 on natural gas in 2005.

“It will definitely save them money,” Roberts said.

Under the new policy, thermostats in Kent’s commercial buildings must be set back to specific temperatures laid out in the policy, when the buildings are not in use. All department heads must assign someone to manually shut the thermostats on and off or program schedules into the automated thermostats.

“All city-owned facilities are following this procedure,” Roberts said.

Based on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day, the city could potentially save 15 hours of energy by shutting down the heating and cooling systems when the facilities are not occupied.

Funds to replace inefficient systems in city buildings and updating manual thermostats to automated ones are extracted from the city’s operating budget.

With the cost of electricity rising, Roberts said he hopes the new policy can keep Kent level with the increases.

“Every year the cost of electricity goes up, and if we can at the same time keep our consumption going down, we’re not going to see the impact of the cost,” he said.

Not only will the energy management policy potentially reduce costs, but it will also have less negative impact on the environment.

“It’s good for everybody, not just the citizens of Kent,” he said. “If we could all pull a little easier on the ore, we’re going to live a little longer.”

The Kent City Energy Management Policy, proposed by Ward Four Councilman John Kuhar, was implemented about six months ago. Kuhar said reducing spending is important when dealing with taxpayers’ money.

“When you’re a government entity, you’re spending somebody else’s money,” he said. “Ultimately the taxpayers pay the bill.”

Aside from the monetary savings, Kuhar said by following this policy Kent is sending out a positive message to those thinking about coming to Kent and those who live here already.

“Kent is going to be conscious of the things they do, both environmentally and money-wise,” he said.

Kuhar’s proposal was not modeled after any surrounding cities, just through the use of common sense, he said.

Kuhar introduced another proposal last month, asking the administration to come up with an incentive program promoting the use of environmentally friendly products. He suggested allocating points and offering rewards to businesses that use efficient products. In return for the most points, businesses could possibly receive discounts on building fees or abatements from some taxes.

“You want a city you can be proud of,” he said, “our community is progressive, that’s the message we are sending out.”

Kent State is not forced to follow this policy because it is implemented by the city. However, Rob Misbrener, associate director of maintenance for Kent State, said the university has been following energy-saving policies for many years. If the thermostats are not programmed to turn on and off to save energy, he said, the building cannot be used.

In an environment of higher education, Misbrener said it is easy to see why these policies are important.

“The environment-saving is self explanatory,” he said. “We all read and hear about how to save the environment and limit our use of electricity.”

Misbrener said Kent State is involved in many energy-saving initiatives like replacing burnt out lights with more efficient ones and installing “dual-flush” toilet valves that can reduce the gallons of water used per flush.

“We are spending the students’ money, and the state of Ohio’s money,” Misbrener said. “We consider ourselves good stewards of that money.”